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  • Shanghai Air: Part 1: Outdoor vs. Indoors

Shanghai Air: Part 1: Outdoor vs. Indoors

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  • By admin
  • Date March 21st, 2012 10:20
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  • Statistics are fun. However, they also tend to be fairly irrelevant by being overly general. For example, knowing that Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors is interesting, but not all that useful to us in China, and more specifically Shanghai. The same is true of the classic U.S. statistic of indoor air being 4 to 25 times worse than outdoor air. Interesting... but what about Shanghai and the rest of China.?

    We've spent the past ten years collecting air quality data that is relevant to us in Shanghai. The following numbers are based on 7 day tests that were done both inside and outside our office (located in Puxi) tests done by A00 Architecture for their projects, polls taken from our colleagues and collaborators as well as data from over 500 tests done in Shanghai done by our colleagues at PureLiving China. In short, it is all data relevant to China.

    The goal is not to paint a bleak picture of Shanghai. Shanghai is no better or worse than most other mega-cities of the world. If anything, Shanghai is probably one of the few that has actually improved over the past decade. Many of these numbers are not new seeing as i have been presenting them in lectures for years.

    The goal is simply to document these numbers so that they can be referred to in later blogs and articles. The goal is also to stimulate the ongoing documentation of similar numbers, where ever people are working on solutions to air pollution.

    The good news is that there are solutions available in Shanghai which yield clean, healthy air, making interiors what they are supposed to be: spaces that help regenerate our health as opposed to destroy it. These solutions, illustrated by case studies, will be the subject of the blogs and articles that follow. Stay tuned.

    In the meantime, here are the numbers, as simple and relevant as I could make them:

    105: This is a measure of particulate matter (dust) in the outdoor air, measured in μg/m3. Specifically, it is a measure of particulate matter that is 2.5 microns in size or smaller (called PM 2.5). These particulates enter directly into our lungs and bloodstream, causing asthma, lung cancer, increased blood pressure and many other diseases and infections.

    35: This is the maximum amount of PM 2.5, measured in μg/m3, allowed to be present in the air according to US EPA standards, over a 24 hour period.

    70: This is the maximum amount of PM 2.5, measured in μg/m3, allowed to be present in the air according to National standards (China). Note that China's standards are very often more strict then International standards when it comes to air quality. PM 2.5 is an exception to this and will no doubt become more stringent in the near future.

    500: This is the maximum amount of total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) allowed to be present in the air according to both National and International standards. It is measured in μg/m3.

    93: Our white collar colleagues and collaborators spend over 93% of their time indoors. Seeing as most of them cycle to work and value being outdoors, this number is probably higher for other city dwellers.

    73: This is a measure of PM 2.5 that is found indoors. On average, the indoor levels of PM 2.5 are 60-80% of what they are outdoors. 1600: This is a measure of TVOC (chemical off-gassing) found inside our former office, as tested over a 7 day period and having been renovated 1 year earlier. Tests of standard Shanghai apartments revealed similar results, also 1 year after renovation. This measure is 3.2 times higher than the allowable standard.

    6690: This is a measure of the highest TVOC levels we've encountered in a non-industrial setting, and was for an apartment that was well above the usual standard in terms of quality and choice of materials. It is 13 times above allowable level.

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