An elderly Chinese couple got lost in the city of Nanjing for almost nine hours after being confused by the dense smog. The couple was unable to distinguish between the various buildings, as the smog made them look similar in their eyes.
Lost in the smog
The couple had gone out shopping at 9 a.m. But very soon, they found themselves wandering through the neighborhood, unable to make out the direction to their home. They kept wandering until 6 p.m when a passerby discovered them and called the police.
The authorities got them into a police station and in touch with their daughter. The couple was soon taken back to their home. “I went outside with my wife to buy vegetables and could not find the way back… I had left my phone at home where no one could answer it,” the husband said in a statement (South China Morning Post).
Just as with other major cities in China, smog is a big issue in Nanjing. When there is an increase in smog, citizens are usually advised not to wander for too long outside. Major bridges and roads are often closed and flights are canceled or delayed.
Last year, a schoolgirl in Beijing got lost in the smog on her way to school. Police officers had to call in assistance to get her back on track. In 2015, a woman from Anhui Province got lost for an entire day in the thick smog. She was later discovered in a forest.
The smog problem of China
China’s smog problem mostly intensifies during winter when coal-based power plants work overtime to supply the necessary electricity for the heaters in homes. These plants output tiny, charred dust particles into the air, which not only discolor buildings, but also reduce visibility and cause many health issues.
“Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream. Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart. Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems,” according to EPA.
Most common health effects include premature death in people suffering from lung or heart disease, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, and difficulty in breathing. Even though China has implemented several steps to combat air pollution, the U.S.-based Health Effects Institute (HEI) says that a large number of people have already been affected.
“People are living longer and older people are more susceptible to the diseases most closely linked to air pollution — the major causes of death in China like stroke, heart attack, and lung cancer… We have done some projections in China up to 2030, and even with improvements in air quality, you see the number of deaths going up as the population gets older,” Dan Greenbaum, President of HEI, said to Reuters.
According to estimates in China, there are almost 1.6 million premature deaths every year due to air pollution. There are about 240 million people in China aged above 60 years, accounting for 17.3 percent of the total population. These are the people who have been exposed to air pollution for the longest period of time. As such, more elderly are expected to suffer from incidences of particulate matter-related health issues.