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Insurers offer money back on smog-hit trips
By Hu Min

LOCAL travel agencies are offering customers the option to insure their holidays against smog.

For a premium of between 10 (US$1.62) and 15 yuan, the companies are promising to pay travelers compensation of 50 yuan per day if the air quality in their destination falls below a certain level.

The deal is currently available only on trips of between two and seven days within Shanghai or to the cities of Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu, Guangzhou or Harbin.

More cities will be added over time, the agencies said.

Payouts will be made if the air quality index (AQI) surpasses 100 in Shanghai and Guangzhou, 150 in Chengdu and Harbin, or 200 in Xi’an and Beijing, both of which frequently experience heavy air pollution.

According to the government’s scale, an AQI of 101-150 indicates light pollution, 151-200 moderate pollution and 201-300 heavy pollution.

Between February 16 and March 17, Shanghai had 13 days with an AQI of more than 100, while Beijing had nine days when it surpassed 200.

According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, as well as Beijing and Xi’an, Shijiazhuang, Xingtai, Baoding and Handan — all in Hebei Province — were among the country’s most polluted cities in February.

In contrast, Haikou, Zhoushan and Fuzhou were among those with the best air quality in the month.

Meanwhile, the state-owned People’s Insurance Co of China is offering residents of Beijing cover against health problems caused by air pollution.

The policy, which is available to anyone aged between 10 and 50, promises to pay out 1,500 yuan to holders who are hospitalized with a smog-induced smog.

It will also pay out 300 yuan when the city’s AQI surpasses 300 on five consecutive days, a level considered “hazardous.”

Masking the truth

Face masks that promise protection against the hazards of air pollution might not be as effective as they claim.

In recent tests, 23 of the 38 batches examined were found to be less effective at blocking particles than advertised, the Shanghai Quality and Technical Supervision Bureau said.

Masks made by Shanghai Dasheng, a sanitary products producer, on sale at a Metro supermarket in Putuo District were found to have no filtering effect at all, the bureau said.

Only slightly better were the masks produced by Ludun and sold on jd.com, which were found to have a filtering efficiency of just 10 percent. China’s quality standards on face masks cover only products designed for clinical or industrial use, and not those intended for personal use.

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