This week we continue with the second half of our series on simple, effective steps China residents can take to living more safely and comfortably indoors during the cold winters. See Part I.
6. Do not use portable combustion heaters indoors – As the temperature drops, it’s tempting to use portable space heaters to keep warm. Electric ones are fine (assuming no fire hazard), but any running on butane, propane, gas-generator powered, or otherwise using some sort of combustion should never be used indoors. These are silent, annual killers, and tragically, carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for thousands of deaths each year like the 12 schoolchildren here. Even if you don’t have this in your home, be aware of your surroundings, as charcoal and coal are used to heat many Chinese homes and stores, exposing you to the same noxious fumes.
7. Protect yourself with a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and can kill in minutes. Any Shanghai resident who lives on the ground floor, has a furnace, or is otherwise close to a source of combustion, should have an inexpensive carbon monoxide detector. Look for a model that meets the following criteria:
- UL listed (mandates sensitivity and alarm characteristics)
- Plug-in with backup battery power
- Has digital display allowing monitoring instead of simply on-off
- Uses a sensor with life of 5-10 yrs instead of the cheaper 2-3 yrs
We carry models from Kidde and HomeSafe — contact us if you need one.
8. Use a HEPA vacuum and wet wipe surfaces that collect dust frequently – All surfaces can collect dust, particles, and other air pollutants, so if they are left they can become airborne again leading to asthma and allergies. A high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter filters out particles down to .3 microns, about 150x smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Without HEPA filters, vacuums just spray the particles back out into the air where they can be inhaled.
9. Open the windows for ventilation, but not during rush hour – Even in winter, ventilation with outdoor air is important to dilute stuffy, polluted indoor air. It’s best to do this when levels of outdoor pollution are lowest. Shanghai’s Ministry of Environmental Protection publishes hourly reports and forecasts on air quality on its website that can be used to plan. In general, best times are early morning or evening. It is also generally a good idea to run an air purifier for an hour or so after ventilating to remove outdoor pollutants common in China air. [see earlier article on how to choose an air purifier].
10. Do find out what’s in the air you’re breathing and the water you’re drinking – Since we spend so much time indoors in winter, we need to know whether it’s our room causing us to get sick with colds, headaches, asthma, allergies, etc. Let us test your home for common indoor pollutants, allergens, and any other unhealthy substances. We help you identify problems – and their root sources – in order to live more healthy and safely. Don’t spend your money on expensive filters and gadgets that may not work or be overkill for what you need.