Air pollution is always attracts all the attention when it comes to environmental problems commonly faced by expats living in China.
A quick glance at the headlines, particularly around the onset of winter, and the words smog or pollution are never far away. Online there are fervent discussions of the best ways to deal with the issue, from which brand of facemask is most effective to which air purifiers offer the best value for money.
However, air pollution, whilst not always visible, particularly when levels are moderate, nevertheless is a noticeable feature of life in China for many.
Those spending time outdoors, especially engaged in physical exercise or playing sports, may notice problems with breathing on bad pollution days. And of course, visibility can be lower when the weather patterns conspire to stop pollutants such as vehicle emissions, fumes and construction dust from being blown away.
Contrast air pollution to another environmental danger which is generally much harder to detect – water pollution.
Drinking water in China
Most of us are accustomed to buying bottled water for drinking purposes or buying large barrels for our water coolers. Tap water is not suitable for drinking in many parts of the world and China is no exception.
But have you considered that we use water for all manner of purposes beyond drinking? In particular, water for bathing is something which we may have not thought much about.
Is your hair brittle or dry? Do you find you have to use a lot of soap to build up enough of a lather to wash yourself? These are two problems which you may encounter in China.
Much of the water in China is hard water, that is, H2o taken from rivers, lakes, reservoirs or underground aquifers which leave mineral deposits in the water. Whilst this is not unhealthy in itself, hard water has a residue inside it which makes it more difficult to build up a lather in soap, and can damage our hair.
Also, in many countries chlorine is added to the water supply to kill bacteria living within it. In China this is also done, but according to a national media report, the amount of chlorine used in many Chinese cities is significantly greater that in developed countries.
The amount of chlorine used is not harmful to our digestive systems or internal body, but it can cause skin problems and brittle hair. Also the steam created whilst having a shower means we may inhale a lot of chlorine to the point of making it a little difficult to breathe.
Thankfully there are solutions and water filters can be easily bought in China which attach to your faucet, tap, shower head or even to your entire home’s water system. These can eliminate not only chlorine, impurities such as mineral deposits, but also heavy metals which can sometimes be found in water from buildings with old plumbing.
In short, don’t forget that there are benefits to filtering water in China as well as air in order to keep yourself in the best possible shape for mind and body – it’s no secret that polluted air or water can quickly lead to other health problems.
That said, despite all of the cautionary wording above, it’s worth pointing out that many expats live in China for years without taking special measures to deal with water or air problems and live healthily enough with no complaint. So at the end of the day it is a personal matter and the problem may be a mental one to some extent for some