Air Pollution Solutions

Air pollution solutions are critical for healthy living in China.

Many studies from around the world including some conducted in China warn us of the serious effects of air pollution even at the lower levels we now enjoy in China.

In 2018 Shanghai’s annual average PM2.5 concentration was 36 ug/m3, a 42% reduction from 2013’s average of 62 ug/m3.

Quite an accomplishment, but this concentration is still above China's own lax ambient air quality standard of 35 ug/m3, and far above the World Health Organization (WHO) standard of 10 ug/m3.

The air quality in Beijing and many other parts of China has also been improving in recent years, but is even worse than Shanghai’s.

As mentioned in our Shanghai smog article, the local government has set the goal of reducing air pollution to WHO standards by 2040. That, however, is a long time to wait. 

Outdoor and Indoor Air Pollution Solutions

The good news is that air pollution solutions are easily accessible in China and relatively inexpensive compared to the costs of not protecting yourself.

Below we introduce some products to help protect yourself from air pollution in China and some tips for keeping your indoor air clean.

Air Purifiers

A study conducted at Shanghai's Fudan University concluded that using air purifiers in your home in China will bring health benefits within just a few days. 

Students at the University were divided into different groups, some with air purifiers installed in their residences and some without. Tests found the subjects using air purifiers had marked improvements in insulin resistance, blood pressure, stress levels and other biomarkers even within just the 9-day test period. 

The leading researcher stated that the study found that "indoor air purifiers are useful for protecting our health."

This backed up another study by some of the same researchers which showed that using air purifiers over just a 48-hour period showed cardiopulmonary benefits.

Air purifiers can protect us from PM2.5 and even smaller particulate matter as long as they have a HEPA filter.

Air purifiers can also reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and thereby ground-level ozone (O3), when they include activated carbon filters.

Having an air purifier in your bedroom to keep the air clean at night is especially beneficial as sleeping should take up approximately 30% of our time.

For more details on what to look for when purchasing an air purifier in China as well as a list of suppliers please see our top rated air purifiers article.

Air Pollution Solutions

Air Pollution Face Masks

There have been several studies conducted which have proven the benefits of wearing air pollution face masks when outdoors on smoggy days.

Pollution masks should meet N95 or N99 grade (or the equivalent European standard) in order to block particulate matter (PM) air pollution. The common cloth mask worn by many people in Northern China to protect themselves from colds and pollen does not meet this standard so is not an effective air pollution solution.

Some pollution face masks on the market also include a carbon filter to help protect you from ozone pollution; especially important when on or near roadways as much of the ground-level ozone is created by chemical reactions produced between motor vehicle exhaust and sunlight.

Many pollution face masks are not suited for kids as they can not fit snugly enough to block polluted air entering the nose and mouth. Fortunately several manufacturers provide masks specially designed for children.

For more details about air pollution masks please see our N95 mask article.

More Tips for Improving Indoor Air

Here are a few more tips to help you get rid of air pollution in your home.

Pollution particles will stick to your skin and clothes, so when you come inside after a smoggy day take a shower and wash your outer clothing.

Dry cleaning should be immediately taken out of plastic wrappings and aired on the balcony to remove toxins.

Reduce the amount of plastics and chemical cleaning products in your home as they can emit Phthalates into the air which have been shown to have links to various ailments.

Ensure the furniture and building materials in your home are not emitting hazardous levels of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Consider hiring an air quality inspection company to test your indoor air and discover any such air pollution emitters which should be removed from your home.

Install shower filters to reduce off-gassing of chlorine when taking a warm shower. 

Air conditioners and their filters inside should be cleaned regularly and set on inner circulation when the outdoor air is poor.

Air purifying plants placed around your home can help to suck up some PM2.5 and other pollution particles. 

Using an indoor electronic air pollution monitor to continuously check your air quality at home in China will keep you alert. During one heavy pollution day in November 2017 the air quality index (AQI) reading on my air pollution monitor plummeted from 250 to under 60 within 20 minutes of closing the windows and turning on my air purifiers.

Shanghai AQI 255
Shanghai Indoor Air Quality

Before opening the windows to ventilate your home or going outside you should check the AQI and PM2.5 numbers on one of the many China apps for air quality. 

Be sure, however, to ensure you have good ventilation when you use gas for cooking or heating inside!

Dietary Air Pollution Solutions

According to studies there are some healthy foods that can help you combat air pollution.

A study conducted by a team of researchers from the Harvard school of Public health, Hong Kong's City University and other institutions indicated that a four-week daily B vitamin supplement program limited the negative health effects of exposure to PM2.5 pollution.

A study conducted in Qidong near Shanghai in 2011/2012 showed that a daily dose of broccoli sprout beverage containing sulforaphane, a bioactive component derived from broccoli, increases the rate of detoxication of air pollutants. This has been backed up by other studies showing broccoli consumption brought benefits to those exposed to diesel exhaust particles, as well as smokers.

Animal liver, a common Chinese dish, is rich in B vitamins. Chinese congee and steamed buns also contain many vitamin B rich ingredients such as pearl barley, buckwheat, red rice, oats, millet, black glutinous rice and brown rice, and kidney and mung beans.

Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids found in oily fish such as Salmon and Mackerel have been shown to reduce the impact of particulate matter (PM) on our health. Other powerful antioxidants such as vitamins C and E found in fruits and vegetables are also helpful.

Some Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) products claim to be air pollution solutions, but many respected TCM doctors say consumers should not trust such claims. TCM dietary theory, however, offers advice on how to build up your health which can indirectly safeguard you against the negative effects of air pollution.

Some entrepreneurs have hit on another rather flaky air pollution solution by selling canned air in China from places such as the UK and Canada.

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