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Mainland Businesses See Clear Opportunities in Anti-smog Sector

While anti-smog products proliferate across the mainland, the benefits of many of them can seem distinctly hazy.

Photo: Clear winners: The face mask industry. (Xinhua News Agency)
Clear winners: The face mask industry.
Photo: Clear winners: The face mask industry. (Xinhua News Agency)
Clear winners: The face mask industry.

The continuing issue of environmental pollution in many of the mainland's major cities – notably Beijing – has spurred several manufacturers and service providers into offering novel solutions to the problem. Not all of them, however, deliver any real benefits.

The home appliance industry has long been at the forefront of the anti-smog economy. As well as traditional air purifiers, there is also a consistent and growing demand for anti-smog air-conditioners, anti-smog humidifiers and anti-smog vacuum-cleaners.

The food and beverage sector, however, has also been keen to get in on the act, with a number of restaurants now offering "anti-smog specials". Jin Ding Xuan, for example, a restaurant specialising in Guangdong and Sichuan cuisine, now features a range of supposedly anti-smog and detoxifying items on its menu, including braised black fungus with spring onion and a pear and white fungus drink. Traditionally, in Chinese cooking, black fungus, pig's blood and kelp are all believed to have positive benefits when it comes to absorbing small particles and other impurities in the digestive system and then excreting them from the body to cleanse the system.

Despite the widespread availability of such items, many are sceptical as to their true benefit. According to dietitians at the Wuhan General Hospital of the Guangzhou Military Region, from a dietetic point of view, the ingredients of these dishes have limited benefits when it comes to reducing lung heat, promoting detoxification, preventing coughs and reducing dryness and heat. The so-called "anti-PM2.5 foods" and "anti-smog foods", however, are seen as gimmicks at best, as any particulate matter inhaled into the body will not be removed as a consequence of eating this kind of food. The effects of fighting smog through food intake, then, are seen as somewhat minimal.

In the medical field, Guangzhou Panggaoshou, a 125-year old pharmaceutical company specializing in cough treatments, is working with Shanghai's Fudan University on China's first research into preventing and treating the harmful effects caused by exposure to PM2.5 (particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5µm or less). The research shows that fritillary and loquat cough mixture, as well as honeyed fritillary and loquat jelly, all have clear benefits when it comes to preventing and curing the respiratory infections resulting from PM2.5 levels.

In other areas, the clear proliferation of anti-smog face masks (and even air-purifying mahjong tables) has spurred legislation in the sector. On 13 October 2014, The Standardisation Administration of China announced plans to publish a draft for comments relating to the Technical Requirements for Protective Face Masks for Everyday Use before the end of the year. This is a precursor to official approval for the promulgation of the 2015 revised national standards for air purifiers.

Leila Liu, Beijing Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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