Alexandra Thyssen is from Germany and her husband Walter is from Belgium. They work for the same Luxembourgish company based in Langfang, Hebei – she as a prototype coordinator, he as the plant manager. The Thyssens moved to Beijing in 2008 with their eldest son Patrik, who is now 22 years old and studies in Germany. Their two younger children, 6-year-old Richard and nearly 4-year-old Jonas, attend House of Knowledge’s Quanfa and Victoria Gardens campuses respectively.
How important is the issue of air pollution to you and your family and how has your understanding of it changed over the years?
When we arrived in 2008, we knew the air in Beijing was not as good as at home but we didn’t think very much about it. It might have been different if we had a small child, but Patrik was already 15 years old. We didn’t have any apps telling us how bad the air really was. The first air purifier I saw was just before Richard was born in September 2009; before then I didn’t even know they existed.
Having a baby made us think more about the pollution and we bought our first IQAir [purifier]. We met more and more people who were really concerned about the air quality. Today, we have air purifiers in almost every room. The air pollution is also one of the main reasons we are going home this summer.
Do you talk to your children about air pollution?
Yes, but usually they just want to know if the air is good or bad and if they can go outside without a mask. Richard and Jonas were both born here, so for them it is as normal as asking if it is raining or not.
What measures does your family use to minimize the effects of air pollution?
We have air purifiers in every room: IQAir, BlueAir and Climatech. We have also a Laser Egg. Just last year, after a health talk with Johannes Lauesen from Climatech, we sealed all windows, doors and other gaps where air can come in. If the AQI is over 200, we wear masks outside and stay indoors as much as possible.
How did you settle on the products you currently use?
I tried different kinds of masks. I liked Vogmasks the most because they are very comfortable. For the air purifiers, we started with IQAir, then we bought some BlueAirs because they were cheaper and smaller than the IQAirs. Last year, we bought some air purifiers from Climatech. We knew [the founders]from HoK and liked the fact that they measured air quality in the rooms and adjusted their air flow to the actual pollution level.
What measures does your child’s school use to deal with air pollution?
HoK has a cutoff for outdoor play at an AQI above 200. Below 200, it is scaled according to the age of the kids. When Richard first started at HoK’s Victoria Gardens campus, they had BlueAir [purifiers]. Later they switched to air purifiers from Climatech, which can also be monitored through an app.
This article originally appeared on page 51 of the beijingkids March 2016 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Uni You