“We should not fear smog. It’s preventable and curable,” reads a banner outside a newly dedicated clinic at Chengdu No. 7 People’s Hospital. Opened last week, the clinic has already treated over 100 patients for smog-related symptoms, including coughs, sore throats and more serious conditions, like asthma and heart disease, that may have been triggered by the country’s air pollution.
Niu Weiyi, director of the hospital’s clinic department, explained to a Chinese news source that the clinic will prevent people with multiple symptoms brought on by smog from having to travel between different parts of the hospital.
Some, however, suspect that the whole thing might be little more than a publicity stunt aimed at cashing in on smog hysteria. “You can’t really say a symptom such as a cough or sore throat is caused by PM2.5,” Pan Xiaochuan, a professor at Peking University’s School of Public Health, told the Associated Press. He was referring to fine particulate matter, the component of air pollution believed to be most dangerous to humans.
Chengu, where the clinic is located, has relatively light air pollution compared to Beijing and other northern cities, which have declared health emergencies on particularly bad days — although its air quality still exceeds the levels considered safe by the U.N. In October, the World Health Organization classified air pollution as a leading cause of cancer, calling it the “most important environmental carcinogen.”