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Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel writes about the increasing concern of air pollution for American Foreign Service families posted in countries and cities with poor air.  “Many Foreign Service families spend a significant portion of their lives assigned to cities with unsafe air. What are the effects, and what can be done about it?”

“Smog levels became so elevated in Beijing last December that the Chinese government issued a “red alert” two days in a row. That announcement forced the closure of all schools and offices, and brought factories to a standstill, in an effort to reduce air pollution over the city. While air pollution has been slowly gaining media attention in the past few years, with stories about “hot spots” like Beijing and New Delhi raising concern, members of the U.S. Foreign Service and their families have been living and working in heavily polluted countries around the world for years. In fact, many FSOs and their families now spend much of their careers at posts with unsafe air.

“Despite recent media coverage of smog alerts and rising pollution levels, there is surprisingly limited organized information available concerning what severe air pollution feels like on a daily basis and possible methods to prevent its effects. The purpose of this article is to explore air pollution in more detail and gather insights from FSOs and their family members at polluted posts, as this growing public health concern raises important questions…” The Foreign Service Journal. Read the full column on

The Air We Breathe: Living with Air Pollution