Everyone knows about Beijing’s notorious air pollution, but many newcomers forget that clean water is not a given in China.
The tap water in Beijing is not fit for drinking (or cooking, or showering) as China treats water with high amounts of chloramines, a combination of chlorine and ammonia, to disinfect the water. Chlorine alone is known to cause cancer, asthma, and skin irritations (allergies), but chloramines is even more difficult to remove, and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is about “about 2,000 and 100,000 times less effective than free chlorine for the inactivation of E. Coli and rotaviruses, respectively”, which may negatively affect those of us with weak stomachs and poor immune systems.
Drinking water solutions
- Boil it! Boiling tap water is a cheap method that removes bacteria but has no effect on neurotoxins, heavy metals, mercury or minerals like calcium.
- Purchase carbon filters, such as those in Brita pitchers. You can find larger carbon filters for water coolers if the little pitchers are not enough for your family, but remember that while carbon filters can remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chlorine, taste, and odor, it cannot handle the minerals, salt and dissolved inorganic compounds found in Beijing’s tap water.
- Order water delivered to your door — a popular option as it’s convenient to call up a company to deliver 19l jugs of water while you’re out. However, there are three points to consider: (1) bisphenol A (BPA) is commonly found in plastic bottles, especially if the jug has been filled for more than a week (which is likely); (2) water jugs usually get placed in a dispenser, which ought to be cleaned/disinfected regularly or there could be bacterial growth; (3) the authenticity of the water delivered, as even bottled water could just be tap water. Brands such as C’estbon have bar codes that supposedly “track” your water, but their reliability is questionable due to their many branch stores. The most reliable water delivery service is Watsons, which has just one warehouse they deliver from and a very user-friendly English website to order from.
- Purchase bottled water in 4-5L bottles. Not the most eco-friendly option, but if you stick to the well-known brands such as Watsons, Nestle, and Ganten, at least you won’t worry about the quality of the water.
- Install counter-top or under-counter water filtration (for an individual faucet), such as the systems from Aquasana or Xiaomi. These are more affordable as filters only need to be changed every six months or so. The Aquasana table top model has been tested to remove 97 percent of chlorine, herbicides, pesticides, etc. while keeping beneficial minerals. The Xiaomi model is newer and has four levels of reverse osmosis filtration, filtering 99.9 percent of most pollutants, including antibiotics.
- Install a whole house water filtration system, the most cost-effective way to ensure the safety of your water for not only drinking and cooking, but also brushing your teeth, showering, and laundering purposes. Whole house water filtration systems can be upgraded to include water softening features, and Aquasana offers free installation and delivery.
Many expats complain of skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis, and dandruff as well as chronic skin and hair dryness while living in Beijing. According to Aquasana’s website, showering and bathing in chlorinated tap water even at very low levels can cause damage to skin and hair. Chlorine is known to strip hair and skin of its natural protective oils, resulting in scaly skin, itching, and bacterial imbalances. In addition, the contaminants in shower water are at least 20 times more concentrated in steam, which can be inhaled in a shower and will even linger as indoor air pollution. To address these health concerns, filters can be directly installed onto shower heads, with or without a wand, which according to Aquasana can remove 97 percent of chlorine while balancing PH levels.
Aquasana China 美国阿夸莎娜公司
Rm 1271, Jinchao Building, Beijing Bureau of Environmental Protection, 5 Nongzhanguan Nanlu, Chaoyang District (400 000 8320, EN: 136 5128 5157, email@example.com) www.aquasana-china.com 朝阳区农展南路5号北京市环境保护局京朝大厦1271
World Health Store 世界健康品店
1) Mon-Fri 10.30am-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-7.30pm. Rm 2152, 1/F, Section A, North Tower, Soho Shangdu, 8 Dongdaqiao Lu, Chaoyang District (5900 2209) www.worldhealthstore.com.cn 朝阳区东大桥路8号SOHO尚都北塔A座一层2152; 2) Mon-Thu 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10.30am-8.30pm, Sun 10.30am-8pm. Rm 09A, B1/F, Euro Plaza, 99 Yuxiang Lu, Tianzhu, Shunyi District (8046 2524) 顺义区天竺镇裕翔路99号欧陆广场地下1层09A
Watsons Water 屈臣氏蒸馏水
(6330 9966, 2660 6688) www.watsons-water.com
Photo: Mauricio Alves (Flickr)
This article originally appeared on pages 32-33 of the 2016 Home and Relocation Guide. Click here for your free online copy. To find out how you can obtain a hard copy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.