Shanghai Indoor Air Quality:
A Concern for Expats

In Shanghai it seems hardly a day goes by without another story of doom and gloom related to bad outdoor air quality.

But what about indoor air quality in Shanghai? While there is more awareness of the dangers of outdoor pollution among Shanghai expats, many are still unaware of the dangers lingering in the air inside their homes.

In this article we look at some indoor air quality (IAQ) issues in China, and what steps you can take to improve the situation.

For a list of organic and natural cleaning and beauty product suppliers in Shanghai, click here.

Detox in Shanghai

Detox programs are becoming very popular in Shanghai, with new suppliers popping up every month.

Many Shanghai expats might be interested to try these out to clean our systems of the toxins in the food we consume; a worry compounded by China's food safety issues.

But what about toxins that enter our system through our breathing?

Culprits lurking in the indoor air you breath

Studies in recent years have shown that many mass-market body-care and cleaning agents contain toxins that can cause various diseases and health issues.

The high rate of Chinese women contracting lung cancer has also been shown to be connected to poor IAQ issues in China; due to reasons including gas cooking, second-hand smoke, and poor ventilation

Cleaning Products

In today's fast-paced world, consumers demand efficiency, with the cleaning industry competing fiercely to meet these needs. This drive to create swifter-acting products, however, has not been without consequence.

Seemingly innocuous household cleaning products often contain synthetic chemicals and artificial fragrances, which emit an array of harmful toxins into the air we breathe at home.

In recent years various environmental and public health organizations have uncovered startling facts surrounding the adverse effects of household cleaning products.

Over a 15-year study, the Toronto Indoor Air Quality Conference concluded women who work in the home have a 54 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than women who work outside of the home, because of their increased exposure to household chemicals.

Along with relocation and the culture shock that comes with it, most new expats in Shanghai spend more time indoors than before. 

Many Shanghai expat spouses had jobs back home, but give up work to relocate to Shanghai with their families, meaning they spend much more time indoors. This can lead to higher exposure to toxins from cleaning agents that are used in the home.

Phthalates and BPA are common ingredients in cleaning and personal care products. A study conducted by Biological Psychiatry uncovered a positive correlation between Phthalates and ADD/ADHD symptoms.

Currently, standards for cleaning products in China are lower than in many Western countries, so the impact can be even more hazardous to the health of Shanghai expats.

Fortunately, Chinese authorities are discussing stricter standards which are expected out in the next few years.

Outdoor Air Quality vs. Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality is typically 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air in Western countries. This multiplier might be lower in Shanghai, especially during high air pollution days, but it is still something Shanghai expats need to keep in mind, especially as they keep their windows closed during bad air days.

Off-gassing from interior decoration, building materials and furniture can emit VOCs, which if not ventilated properly can build up. So while shutting windows to keep out Shanghai’s outdoor air pollution, you might be causing new air quality issues.

Installing Air purifiers in your home can certainly help to clean your indoor air, but making sure to remove indoor toxin creators is just as important to ensuring a healthy indoor air quality in Shanghai.

Tips for Improving Your Shanghai Indoor Air Quality

  1. Hire an indoor air quality testing company to check for gas leaks and other potential hazards in your home. 
  2. Ventilation: Keep windows open when the outdoor air quality allows it. Monitor your Shanghai air quality phone apps regularly to see when is a good time for ventilation.
  3. Reduce the amount of plastics in your home; including plastic shower curtains, plastic wrap on your dry-cleaning etc. 
  4. Read our air pollution solutions article for more tips on protecting yourself from air pollution


More advice and resources for the Shanghai Ex Pat community