Our homes are our sanctuaries, but in this city, a truly healthy home requires a bit more than just walls and a roof: We need something to keep our air clean and water pure. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean we have to completely redesign our lives. With the right tools, a healthy home requires a minimal investment of time and energy. Here are some of the best gadgets for maintaining a healthy environment at home.
Nobody needs a lecture on the dangers of air pollution. But while many of us rightly stay indoors on excessively gray days, it would be wrong to assume that our walls and windows do much to protect us from the sinister mist. That’s because Beijing boasts a full range of airborne pollutants, from big visible dust to ultrafine particulate matter. When choosing an air purifier, it’s best to select one with multiple filtration mechanisms to catch as many contaminants as possible. IQAir makes a purifier that combines four distinct filtering technologies: micro-particle filtration for common allergens like pet dander and pollen, activated carbon for volatile organic compounds from industrial materials, pelletized chemisorption for other chemical pollutants, and "HyperHEPA" for fine particulates. Models range from RMB 11,000 to RMB 25,000 for a whole-house system.
There are numerous options for tap water filtration (jingshuiqi 净水器 or chunshuiqi 纯水器 in Chinese), each with their own pros and cons. Some families opt for the under-the-sink systems (RMB 2,200 and up, plus RMB 600-1,000 for replacing the filters every six months) that are durable and feature multi-step filtration which can be adjusted to your family’s needs – whether it’s heavy metals, chemicals, parasites, or agricultural run-off you’re worried about. For those who want more mobility from their water filter, there are also units that can be placed directly into a water dispenser called jingshuitong (净水桶) and filled manually (RMB 500 and up). Another option is the stainless steel gravity-fed Berkey filter (USD 200 and up) used by the British royal family, Peace Corps and Red Cross, which comprehensively eliminates water contamination and whose filters last a lifetime. The only downside of this model is that it can be damaged during shipping, so it’s crucial to run a food-coloring test to make sure filters are working properly.
Under-the-sink and water cooler filtration systems are available at major retailers, such as Carrefour, Dazhong, and B&Q. Gravity-fed filters are only available from overseas retailers and require international shipping. Try Big Berkey Water Filters at www.bigberkeywaterfilters.com or Berkey Water at www.berkeywater.com. Companies like Dong-xi.com can help you get them to China as well.
Low-tech, yes, but for those with sore throats and sinus infections the neti pot is a lifesaver. To use it, you gracefully stick the teapot-like spout into one nostril and tilt it, sending a stream of saline solution rushing in one side and out the other. Performing this ritual feels strange the first time, but it really helps clear out allergens, dust, and all manner of assorted refuse that ends up in your head. This little godsend will only set you back around RMB 125. If the folks you’ll be sharing it with like to play in the dirt or have bacterial infections, you might want to get more than one. Neti pots are available from the World Health Store.
The shower, our haven from the gritty streets of Beijing, is the most overlooked site of health risks in most people’s homes. Sure, it gets you clean, but it also exposes you to waterborne contaminants, both through your pores and through your lungs in the form of water vapor. In addition to chemical baddies, unfiltered water also contains a shocking amount of chlorine, which dries out our skin and hair and has been linked to asthma in children and adults. Effective shower filters are inexpensive (around RMB 400) and dramatically improve the quality of your hair, skin, and lugs. An added benefit is reducing the time you spend scrubbing calcium deposits that form in your shower.Most shower filters use vitamin C, or weishengsu C (维生素C), activated carbon or huoxingtan (活性炭), or KDF 55, also known as kaidefei (凯得菲) as the filtering medium. Filters using vitamin C take care of chlorine only, while the others also filter out chemical contaminants. KDF 55 is probably the best option, since it’s more effective at high temperatures than activated carbon. Shower filters can be found at the World Health Store and Carrefour.
Speaking of dried-out skin and hair, running a humidifier in your home is a sheer necessity, especially in winter. Although there are a lot of models out there and you might be tempted by the cute apple and polar bear shapes, your best bet is to go ultrasonic. The rationale here is that if you leave one of these plugged in for a long period of time, you won’t end up with a cooked layer of calcium stuck to the bottom. Do use filtered water with these, since the high-frequency oscillations that produce the water vapor won’t eliminate bacteria like the water-boiling ones will. Yadu has a sleek model that we quite like (the YC-D700), with a definite iPod-esque design sensibility for around RMB 300. The Yadu ultrasonic humidifier is available at many local retailers, including the ubiquitous Dazhong Electronics and Wal-Mart.
Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, Sat-Sun 9am-9.30pm. 1) Laiguangying Store, 66 Xiangbin Lu, Chaoyang District (8490 4848); 2) Nine Dragons Store (1km east of Shuangjingqiao), Chaoyang District (8776 8811); 3) Jianxiang Store (200m south of Jianxiangqiao), Chaoyang District (6235 6611). 1) 朝阳区来广营店, 香宾路66号; 2)朝阳区九龙店, 双井桥往东1公里; 3) 朝阳区健翔桥往南200米路
Daily 9.30am-7pm. Jianguo Lu (200m west of Dawang Qiao, opposite Wanda Plaza), Chaoyang District (8884 9522) 朝阳区大望桥店,建国路大望桥往西200米万达广场对面
The IQAir Store
1) Rm 2201-02, Air China Plaza, 36 Xiaoyun Lu, Chaoyang District (8447 5800, 400 650 1266); 2) 2LY1-05, Solana Lifestyle Shopping Center, 6 Chaoyang Gongyuan Lu, Chaoyang District (5905 6768). 1) 朝阳区霄云路36号国航大厦2201-02室; 2) 朝阳区朝阳公园路6号蓝色港湾购物中心2LY1-05 www.iqair-china.com
1) Daily 7.30am-10.30pm. B1/F, Block B, Wanda Plaza, 93 Jianguo Lu, Chaoyang District (5960 3566); 2) Daily 7.30am-10.30pm. Fuzhuohuayuan Plaza, Xuanwai Dajie, Xuanwu District (6316 8905); 3) Daily 7.30am-10.30pm. B1-2/F A48 Zhichun Lu, Haidian District (5873 3666) 1) 朝阳区建国路93号万达广场B座地下1层; 2) 宣武区宣外大街富卓花园广场; 3) 海淀区知春路甲48号地下1-2层
World Health Store
1) Rm 2152, 1/F, Section A, North Tower, Soho Shangdu, 8 Dongdaqiao Lu, Chaoyang District (5900 2209); 2) R09A, LB1, Euro Plaza, 99 Yuxiang Lu, Tianzhu Zhen, Shunyi District (8046 2524) 1) 朝阳区东大桥路8号SOHO尚都北塔A座1层2152; 2) 顺义区天竺镇裕翔路99号欧陆广场地下1层09A