Air pollution in China is a major concern for Chinese people. Chinese central and local governments have been taking action during these past few years, leading to strong air quality improvements. Still, these measures are only the start of long-term efforts to get air that can be considered healthy. Air quality issue is about outdoor air but also indoor air. The World Health Organization (WHO) calls the worldwide air pollution crisis the “largest single environmental health risk” that we face.
There are many root causes of China’s notorious outdoor air pollution, transport emissions being the most important one. Cars are a status symbol in China. Car ownership rates have increased six-fold during the last few decades and have driven up smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions by one-third. The boom in shipping worsens air pollution because ships eject sulfur dioxide that generates acid rain and other pollution. Coal burning is the other major source of air pollution. Despite the measures taken by China’s government to reduce the number of new coal mines, coal power plants, and coal consumption, coal remains the main source of power in China. This pollution has been particularly damaging for Chinese people’s health. 2 million premature deaths are expected annually due to air pollution. Average life expectancy may be shortened by two years according to a study released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in June 2016. Despite major environmental efforts and action plans of the government, one-third of the 5.5 million deaths worldwide caused by air pollution in China occurs in 2013. Surprisingly, indoor pollutants cause nearly 60 percent of the 5.5 million deaths. People generally assume that staying inside is safer but that is not necessarily the case. According to the white paper “Every breath we take: transforming the health of China’s office space,” published by professional services and investment management company specialized in real estate JLL and indoor environmental consultancy PureLiving China, a quarter of all office buildings have worse air quality than outdoors. The concentration of air pollutants indoors can be 100 times greater than outdoors.
Indoor Air pollution in China and its Effects
The need to address the indoor air pollution in China issue is now a priority. In fact, most people spend 80 percent of their day indoors, both at the workplace and at home. A survey initiated by Honeywell shows that 60 percent of Chinese people are worried about indoor air quality. The prevalence of new buildings and furnishings, lower awareness of healthy construction, and high use of particleboard are the sources of indoor air pollution specific to China. Sources of indoor air pollution at home are mainly heating with coal, household cleaning agents, mold, cooking, and dust mites. But homes’ air quality problem can be more easily addressed than the issue for public places, especially at workplaces.
According to air quality specialist RESET, 75 percent of PM2.5, the particulate matter harmful to health, can be found in office buildings. PM2.5 is not the only pollutant according to Cheng, the founder, and president of PureLiving China. Indoor pollutants include formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and microbial organisms. Apart from health concerns mentioned above, poor air quality has direct and serious effects on Chinese businesses. Poor air quality lowers their attractiveness, employee productivity, and retention rates. Poor air quality in office buildings can make recruitment more difficult, as people are reluctant to work in polluted environments. A survey finds that 53 percent of foreign companies wishing to establish in China face problems recruiting senior people from abroad because of pollution concerns.It can also affect the ability of businesses to keep their employees in the long run. Goo
d indoor air correlates with almost twice the level of productivity compared to average air quality and high-performance ventilation systems can increase productivity up to 11%.
Indoor Air Quality Improvement Solutions
While the outdoor air quality issue will take the time to be solved there are immediate solutions for indoor environments to reduce health problems and to boost productivity. One of those solutions is to install air purifiers such as Xiaomi’s air purifier, which Daxue Consulting wrote about on April 12th. Air purifiers limit occupants’ exposure to the outside pollutants and purify indoor air, but air purifiers are difficult to use since they use electrical power to run. Some air purifiers even create ozone. Another solution to improve indoor air quality is to install air filters, which requires involvement on the part of building managers. Another solution to improve indoor air quality is to install air filters, but air filters must be included during the design process of the building.
Businesses and building owners must take action to solve the indoor air pollution in China. Increasing air quality directly benefits businesses themselves, and this is definitely the best way to improve the living conditions of Chinese people.
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