Why Shanghai pollution is a problem, and what you can do to combat it
Before January 2013 Shanghai expats were looking on from afar as the air pollution in Beijing became worse and worse.
Although Shanghai pollution was becoming a concern, not many Shanghai expats were bothered. Since January 2013, however, pollution in Shanghai has become a serious issue we can not ignore.
In a news conference on December 9th, 2013, Zhang Quan, director of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, discussed the reasons for Shanghai's growing air pollution problems.
"There are external and internal causes for the long-term and serious pollution days in Shanghai. A cold front brought polluted air from northern China's industrial cities, while a high pressure cyclone south of Shanghai prevented dirty air from being blown further south to the sea.
"Internal causes included vehicle and factory emissions, and dust from construction sites. Vehicle and factory emissions accounted for 50 percent of Shanghai pollution, followed by dust from construction sites (10.5 percent), power stations (7.3 percent) and straw burning (10 percent). The other 20 percent was from other provinces."
According to Zhang: "The city government is to launch a joint campaign with Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces to curb tiny particulate matter (PM2.5 levels) by 20 percent within three years, beginning from the end of the month. Only regional and even nation-wide cooperation can root out the city air pollution problem in the end."
Apart from PM 2.5, ozone is also becoming a serious Shanghai pollution contributor.
On July 31st, 2013 the Ministry of Environmental Protection in Beijing issued a report stating that ozone levels in the Yangtze River Delta area, which includes Shanghai, exceeded the national standard by 20 percent between January and June 2013.
The report said Ozone had become a more serious cause of air pollution than PM2.5 in the Yangtze River Delta.
Zhao Hualin, head of the pollution prevention and control department at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, stated that Ozone is more hazardous to human health than PM2.5, more complicated and harder to control.
Ozone is an invisible pollutant that is seriously
harmful to the respiratory tract, irritating to the eyes, and can damage
the central nervous system. Nitrogen Oxides, which come mainly from
vehicle emissions, are a major cause of Ozone, and therefore must be
In addition to using N95 pollution face masks when venturing outdoors on severely-polluted days, the best solution to tackle Shanghai pollution is installing air purifiers in your home and office.
When consecutive days of heavy smog appeared in Shanghai in late 2012 to early 2013, some Shanghai expats started having breathing problems and needed a solution. Others, although not yet feeling the direct effects to their health, were also motivated by the smoggy skies to look into purchasing air purifiers.
By this time, however, it was too late. Not only were expats concerned about air pollution in Shanghai, but the local population were also concerned, leading to a rush to buy air purifiers.
Local shopping centers ran out of stock. Calls to some manufacturers and distributors would go unanswered. When contact was finally made it was only to find out that delivery would take as much as 6 weeks upon placing an order.
Prices, naturally, had also increased. For those with breathing problems, however, the time to wait for delivery was more concerning than the higher price.
Choosing the right brand and model of air purifier in Shanghai is not an easy task.
Purchasing a poor-quality machine that produces no results could cause more harm than good. Spending a large amount of money, however, might not be possible for all Shanghai expats.
Online research to compare different brands available in Shanghai is not easy. Some overseas websites such as Air Purifier Power and Consumer Search offer good information and comparisons, but not exactly the same models are sold in Shanghai.
The three main Western brands heavily promoted here, IQ-Air, Blueair and AlenAir, offer different advantages which consumers must compare along with their prices.
Searching Chinese language websites and TaoBao (China's online shopping site, equivalent to eBay) can reveal brands from Japan, Korea and local Chinese brands, but most of these do not market to Shanghai expats, so do not have good English language service.
Many brands make claims of excellent results, but it is difficult to know how true they are. In May 2013, the Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission released the results of its first tests of the efficiency of some of the air purifier machines available on the Shanghai market (see the results in the images below).
Unfortunately, not all brands, such as IQ-Air and AlenAir, were part of this study, while brands tested only included one of their models. The report, however, did give some very interesting results, especially about the low efficiency of some models.
Only three brands on the list successfully removed 99 percent or more of PM2.5, including Bluair, Amway, and Sharp machines.
Formaldehyde, which is often emitted from new furniture and other renovations, is also a major concern for indoor air quality in China. So it is important to have air purifiers able to remove it.
If you're concerned about Shanghai pollution and want cleaner air, read our next article to get help on shopping for a top-rated air purifier in China.