Residents turn their noses up at nasal index

Updated: 2011-08-19 07:42

By Li Xinzhu and Wang Hongyi (China Daily)

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Pollution gauge suspected of being profit engine for firm

SHANGHAI - The Shanghai Meteorological Bureau withdrew its newly released nasal rinse index on Wednesday, only two days after its start, amid increasing public questions over whether it is misleading and profit-driven.

The index, which advises local residents to rinse their nasal cavities between one and six times a day to prevent respiratory diseases, depending on the day's air quality, was purported to be the first of its kind in the nation.

Released on Sunday, it quickly became the subject of criticism. Some said it was misleading and doctors called for it to be withdrawn.

Wang Dehui, a doctor from the Shanghai-based Fudan University, said nasal cavities have their own defense systems and can purify themselves. So there is no need to clean them to prevent disease.

"On the contrary, frequently cleaning nasal cavities might harm the physiological environment inside and pose a hazard to a person's health," he said.

Xu Jianmin, deputy director of the Shanghai Urban Environment Meteorology Center, said the index was developed to improve residents' quality of life. Rhinitis, or the inflammation of nasal tissue, is becoming more common every year.

"The index is aimed at helping residents become more aware of the benefits of living healthy," he said.

Yet, some residents expressed doubts about the true purpose of the nasal rinse index. Feeding their suspicions was the participation of a local company that makes nasal cleanser in the outdoor event that introduced the nasal rinse index on Sunday.

Some residents, who attended the event, have questioned whether the bureau received benefits from the company.

Li Qing, a sales representative of the company, said the bureau has only approached the company for data needed for the nasal rinse index.

"The company only offered us umbrellas and gifts for residents who participated in a Q&A session at the event," said Wang Yajuan, spokeswoman of the bureau. "The index is a purely non-profit project and we guarantee it has nothing to do with business cooperation."

Nevertheless, the bureau suspended the nasal rinse index on Wednesday evening and said that it will take public opinion as well as experts' advice into consideration before bringing a new index out.

It also said any new index will be tested before it is officially announced.

"We will develop more indexes in the future to serve the residents according to their actual requirements," Wang said.

Some residents wondered why there is a need for more indexes.

"I don't quite understand why they try so hard to introduce a lot of indexes," said Wu Hong, a 43-year-old resident. "I thought their job was to provide us with accurate weather reports."