Anyone considering a job posting in Beijing must consider the problem of air pollution. Though the latter shouldn’t be taken lightly, rest assured that you and your family can take measures to minimize its impact on your health.
A growing number of international schools are building air-filtered sports domes, installing central air filtration systems, and enforcing strict cut-off points for outdoor activities based on daily AQI (Air Quality Index) readings.
To keep track of daily pollution levels, get into the habit of checking the US Embassy Twitter feed (@BeijingAir), which provides hourly readings of PM 2.5 levels from the roof of the US Embassy in Liangmaqiao. Keep in mind that these readings may not be accurate for other parts of the city, but they do provide a reliable snapshot of the air quality in central Beijing.
The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center also publishes its own air quality readings from 27 different monitoring stations across the city, which can be accessed at zx.bjmemc.com.cn.
The most convenient way to stay up-to-date on daily AQI readings is with apps. iPhone users can download the free app China Air Quality Index by Fresh Ideas, which provides data not only for Beijing but a number of other cities in China. Android users can download the Beijing Air Quality widget.
Anti-pollution face masks are divided into disposable and reusable types that vary widely in terms of material, cost, and style. Popular brands include 3M, Respro, Vogmask, and Totobobo.
The US-based company 3M makes disposable N95 masks that have proven popular despite their rather “surgical” appearance; they can be a bit awkward for those who wear glasses, but conform to a number of international standards. Each mask costs RMB 10-30 depending on the model. They can be found at select supermarkets and convenience stores like April Gourmet and 7-Eleven, as well as websites like Amazon China (z.cn) and Taobao (www.taobao.com). See p44 for instructions on setting up online banking.
Respro masks are easily recognizable by their “Darth Vader” aesthetic, with replaceable charcoal filters and two external valves. They’re popular with cyclists, though the close-fitting design can be a bit uncomfortable for longer rides and hot days. The Techno (RMB 389) and Sportsta Tech (RMB 429) models are available at any of the websites listed in the previous paragraph and Natooke, a fixed-gear bike shop in Wudaoying Hutong. The staff can advise you on the best model for your needs. Two-packs of filters are also available for RMB 259.
Vogmask produces comfortable microfiber and organic cotton masks containing HEPA filters and available in four sizes: XS (ages 1-2), S (ages 3-7), M (ages 8-12), and L (adult). However, the child sizes are often out of stock due to high demand. There are numerous styles with patterns inspired by animals, flowers, classic arcade games, contemporary art movements, and even particle physics. Vogmasks cost RMB 225 at the time of print and can be bought at Torana Clean Air Center. The store also carries RZ Masks (RMB 198), which are similar in appearance to Respro masks.
Totobobo masks are made in Singapore and consist of a lightweight, transparent material called SoftTech. They also feature replaceable filters (RMB 126-236 per pack) and can be trimmed to fit kids 5 and over. Both the Classic, which covers the nose and mouth, and SuperCool, which covers the mouth only, are available on TMall (totobobo.tmall.com) for RMB 188. Cyclists may find the SuperCool model uncomfortable in hot weather, as condensation tends to form within the mask cup during exercise.
Face masks protect users during outdoor activities, but what about indoors? That’s where air purifiers come in. There’s a dizzying array of indoor filtration options, with a similarly broad range of price tags to match.
Many families are willing to spare no expense to invest in an imported air purifier from companies such as HealthPro, Blueair (distributed by Torana Clean Air Center), Alen Air (distributed by Renaud Air), and Oransi. Expect to pay between RMB 3,000 to 25,000 per unit depending on the size, model, and surface area you’d like to filter. When deciding on an air purifier model, factors include brand, surface area of your home, and extra features such as UV-C lights to kill mold and yeast.
There are much cheaper air purifier models, mostly made by domestic manufacturers like Yadu that can be found at supermarkets and electronics chains like Gome, Dazhong, and Suning. However, keep in mind that foreign brands are more likely to have undergone rigorous testing for their purifiers and passed product safety standards.
And then, there are upstarts like Smart Air, a social enterprise that champions low-cost DIY air filters and puts on regular workshops to help Beijing residents build their own air purifiers. Kits – which consist of a fan, a HEPA filter, and a strap – are available on Smart Air’s website for RMB 200 or RMB 468 depending on the fan strength. The enterprise’s experiments with DIY filters are backed up with hard data on their website (see below).
- Vogmask: 400 650 1253, firstname.lastname@example.org, vogmask.cn
- HealthPro: 400 650 1266, www.iqair-china.com/en
- Torana Clean Air Center: 8459 0785, 8590 0511, 6597 9986, email@example.com, www.toranacleanair.com
- Renaud Air: 400 820 2791, www.renaudair.cn
- Oransi: 400 665 9677, www.oransi.cn
- Smart Air: firstname.lastname@example.org, smartairfilters.com
This article originally appeared in the 2015 beijingkids Home and Relocation Guide. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email email@example.com.
Photos: Sui, courtesy of HealthPro and Vogmask