Understanding Air Quality in Shanghai

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Detrimental air quality has become a common complaint in Shanghai among locals and foreigners alike. With easy access to air quality readings, we’re bombarded with reminders of the magnitude of the problem. How can we manage this information and protect ourselves?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency in the US, “PM stands for particulate matter (also called particle pollution): the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air.” The particles are divided into two major groups. Larger particles (PM 10) measure between 2.5 and 10 micrometers, and are usually caused by smoke and dust from farms, factories and roads, as well as pollen and mold.

Particulates less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM 2.5) are referred to as “fine” particulates and are believed to pose the largest health risks to us. PM 2.5 particulates are of concern since they come from heavy metals or toxic compounds caused by power plants, industries and automobiles. They are small enough to enter the lungs directly and sometimes even the blood stream. These are also the particles that cause reduced visibility and produce the renowned Shanghai haze.

Iannique Renaud, CEO and Founder of Renaud Air (www.renaudair.cn), reminds us our home air quality is as important as the outside air, and more within our control. “Mold, airborne chemicals and volatile organic compounds are all very harmful. With air tests, we want to know the ratio of particulate matter inside and outside your house.

This helps estimate ovarall risk.” Renaud recommends getting an air test so you know exactly what the AQI landscape is in your home.

“Air purifiers circulate the air in your home while passing it through a specially designed filter. When looking for an air purifier, it is important to have a machine powerful enough for the size of the room you have it in. They can really do a great deal if used properly.” To further improve your home air quality, go with an “organic” option. The addition of plants like the Spider Plant, Ficus, Snake Plant (Mother in Law’s Tonge), Bamboo Palm and Aloe Vera were all found to remove up to 87 percent of some air pollutants according to a NASA study.

When outdoors, a mask is another line of defense against a high AQI; the N95 label ensures 95 percent of airborne particles are filtered out.

Air Quality Guide for Particle Pollution

Air Quality

Good

Moderate

Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups

Unhealthy

Very Unhealthy (Alert Day)

Hazardous

Air Quality Index

0-50

51-100

101-150

151-200

201-300

300-500

Health Advisory

None

Unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.

People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.

People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.

People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid all physical activity outdoors. Everyone else should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.

Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.

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