By Angelica Almas
1) Air today, gone tomorrow
The Air Quality Index (AQI) isn’t the best indicator of air quality but it is the measure used by government agencies to inform the public in clean air reports. Each country has unique standards and scales. API, or air pollution index, is the Chinese version of AQI.
Particulate Matter (PM) is a much more valid indicator as it tells you what pollution is made up of, including chemicals, metals and dust particles. The smaller the particle, the bigger chance they have of entering the body and causing lots of damage.
• Bad: PM10 - particles that are 10 micrometers can enter the lungs.
• Worse: PM2.5 - particles that are 2.5 micrometers can enter the blood stream.
PM is measured in mass concentration, or the number of micrograms of PM2.5 dust per cubic meter (µg/m3.) 24 hour maximum allowable levels depend on each country’s standard.
• Europe: 25 µg/m3
• United States: 35 µg/m3
• China: 75 µg/m3
Shanghai averages 70-140 µg/m3 and Beijing averages 90-200 µg/m3.
2) Smartphone savvy
Our favorite free app for tracking the hidden villains in the air is called China Air Pollution Index, created by Fresh Ideas studios. It compares PM2.5 reports from the US Embassy with China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) report.
3) Cover up!
Masks are a great source of protection, but not all masks are created equal. A mask efficiency test conducted in Shanghai by PureLiving Indoor Environmental Solutions revealed the least effective mask is the standard cotton mask, while the most effective is the N95 model, which reduces PM 2.5 particles up to 88 percent. Make sure you replace the mask after 20 hours of use. You can purchase them in bulk from PureLiving (34692269, purelivingchina.com)
4) Indoor invaders
Due to today’s highly efficient, tightly sealed homes, indoor air is typically five to 10 times worse that outdoor air. You’d be surprised at the extent of pollutants such as lead, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), formaldehyde, allergens, radon and mold in your home.
5) How to reduce potential contamination:
• Leave your shoes at the door. Studies indicated 70 percent higher particulate levels in homes where outdoor shoes are worn.
• Ventilate (open your windows) for at least 20 minutes per day.
• Get a hepa vacuum. An unsung weapon against air pollution, they remove 99.7 percent of particulates larger than 0.3 micrograms.
• Get an air purifier. Indoor air is vastly improved, even with just short sharp bursts each day.
• Get your home tested. The only way to know how to effectively combat your indoor toxins is to know where they are and what causes them. //PureLiving (34692269, purelivingchina.com)
6) In the know about H20
No matter how thirsty you are, don’t drink from the tap in China. From the rivers to your faucet, each water drop encounters bacteria, VOCs, disinfection byproducts, and corroded piping laden with lead and copper. In addition, our bodies absorb the heavily chlorinated water while showering, not to mention use during cleaning and cooking.
Clean water options:
• Bottled water – While generally safe and cheap, filtering in mass quantities isn’t as effective, using bottles is bad for the environment and it doesn’t address usage for showering and cooking. If using a water dispenser, make sure to clean it every six weeks. Find directions at urban-family.com.
• Filters –Reverse osmosis (RO) filters provide the purest water. Pair a multi-stage kitchen sink filter with an inline shower filter and you’re drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing water are covered.