"The truth is there isn't a lot people can do about ambient air pollution," said Deborah Soligsohn, an environment and energy specialist at the World Resources Institute, a U.S. based think tank.
"Ambient air pollution is not nearly as large a health risk as more immediate forms of air pollution. Tobacco is a much larger killer, and indoor air pollution from poorly ventilated wood and coal fires has traditionally been a much larger killer in the developing world. Smoky restaurants and bars can have levels as high as these recent air pollution numbers."
I know a few expat friends who have decided to relocate out of Beijing and were mainly turned off by its bad air.
"What did you think of Beijing?" I asked David Van Dyke, who lived and worked in Beijing for nearly seven years before relocating to Canada last year.
"Mostly liked it, save for the Internet (censorship) and pollution," he said.
Meantime, some residents have resorted to humor and sarcasm online to vent their frustration.
"I love my city, but I refuse to be a human vacuum cleaner," netizens re-tweeted on Weibo, China's microblogging social media. "We want clean air, and we want to breathe freely."
Others posted pictures wearing face masks of various shapes and designs.
A page of Sohu.com featured a section covered with haze, with a note saying the headlines have been obscured by a massive smog. "Click on it, and it will clear up." Once it cleared it, the title read: "We live in a "toxic gas.'"
"Don't worry," Henry Ngo posted on my Facebook page. "Smokers are inhaling worst air than this. And they did not die immediately!"
Is this now the new "normal"?
Soligsohn, who lived in Beijing for 14 years, does not think so.
"This is a confluence of bad events," she assured me. "Pollution is definitely a problem. It hasn't gone away, but there is no reason to believe an extreme reading is anything other than an extreme."
There seems to be no quick solution.
"This is complex and takes time, but the work has begun," Soligsohn added.
"It took cities like London and Los Angeles almost half a century to get from really dirty air to pretty clean air, and LA has never actually fully met EPA standards, which have become tougher with new information."
Five days after what some have dubbed Beijing's "air-mageddon," the sunshine has reappeared, and the air has actually turned relatively clear.
My daughter points out that London and Los Angeles have confronted pollution as well. As long as the Chinese recognize it is a problem, they will eventually be able to strike a balance between a clean environment and a thriving economy."
Wind has dispersed some of the smog, although my chest remains heavy and my throat is still itchy.