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This Bizarre Video About Nose Hair Is a Call to Action on China's Air Pollution

A conservation group is urging — by way of a dystopic depiction of China — residents to ride more bicycles in an effort to get a handle on the nation's notoriously bad air quality.

by Ciara O'Rourke
Mar 1 2016, 5:00pm

Via WildAid

"Look at them, survivors of the pollution age," a narrator says as a couple walks with a baby stroller, their nose hair curling like waxed mustaches. The man stares at his partner, smiling, and her gaze drops in the direction of their young child, also sprouting abundant nose hair. 

"They've adapted to this environment," the narrator says. "And even grown to enjoy living in it."

Nasal hair helps to filter harmful allergens or bacteria before entering the lungs. But in the dystopic China of a new public service announcement about smog, fortified nose hair is depicted as an adaptation, albeit highly bizarre, to China's poor air quality.

The PSA was produced by the conservation group WildAid in the hopes of making people more aware of how they contribute to air pollution and climate change, particularly from their commute, said Matt Grager, the group's climate program officer. He said the group hopes to raise the percentage of Beijing residents who use their bicycles for daily transportation from 6 to 12 percent.

"Most people believe both individuals and the government have a role to play in reducing pollution," Grager said. But, he added, individuals are less sure about what actions they can take. WildAid started a campaign in China in 2011 to try to shape attitudes on climate change and to encourage eco-conscious consumer choices such as recycling and reducing personal energy consumption.

The video was released on Thursday and has been viewed more than 1.25 million times in China, according to Grager. He said he wasn't aware of any response to the PSA from the Chinese government.

Poor air quality is blamed for the deaths of 1.6 million people in China in 2013, according to a recent study. Air pollution is ranked fourth globally as a risk factor for death and pollution mortalities are expected to increase. 

Pollution levels in the city of Shenyang soared in November to 50 times higher than what the World Health Organization considers safe. It was the highest pollution on record since China began monitoring air quality in 2013, according to the Associated Press.

Related: Air Pollution Kills 5.5 Million People a Year — Over Half of Them in China, India

Follow Ciara O'Rourke on Twitter: @ciaraorourke