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How to: Deal with Water Pollution in Shanghai

Bottled water, filters, and bathroom accessories


You don’t need an AQI app to know that you're experiencing a high of PM2.5. Just look out the window any given morning. It's hard to even peel yourself out of bed when you see that gray cloud of death looming over the city. Less talked about, however, is the other more silent but equally worrisome threat—water pollution.


The Low-down

In an effort to kill bacteria and viruses, China pumps its water full of chlorine. While there are chlorine limits in place in many countries, no such regulations exist here. In fact, chlorine levels in Shanghai are triple of what is considered safe by the World Health Organization.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. China's network of pipes are fairly old and decrepit, allowing microorganisms and chemicals to seep in. Some also contain heavy metals like lead and mercury. So when water leaves the treatment plant, it can quickly become polluted in a multitude of ways. What's worst? Boiling your water doesn't remove metals.


So bottled water?

Many expats turn to bottled water, getting them delivered in big 19L bottles from companies like Nongfu and Nestle. That's fine, except you don't really know how long your water has been sitting under the sun, or if the bottles themselves have been sanitized and cleaned properly. And with every bottle you buy, you're just contributing to the plastic wasteland. Tests carried out on these water also frequently turn out results showing the existence of bacteria that is well above the standard limit. And let's not get started on the subject of 'fake water.'


Water filters are better

In light of all these variables, it's safer to just get water filters installed. Bear in mind that there is a big difference between water ionizing machines and water purification units. The former alkalizes your water, but if you want harmful particles removed, it's the latter you should go for. The best filtration system to use is reverse osmosis, which removes all harmful pollutants found in China's water.


There are plenty of trusted companies, like Renaud (from RMB1,840) and PureLiving (RMB6,799), that offer a variety of filters designed for different needs and wants. If you don't like the idea of spending a lot of money up front on something that you likely can't ship home with you, WATER UNITED (from RMB8/day) and Greenwave (RMB240/month) offer affordable, rental options. These usually come with free replacement filters throughout the duration of your lease too.


And accessories to go along with that

Aside from installing filters under your kitchen sink, it's also a good idea to think about shower and sink filters. Most people only worry about directly consuming compromised water, but it's as easy to accidentally ingest some when you're brushing your teeth. Chlorine can also seep into your skin via open pores during a shower. All that leads to brittle hair, dry skin, and further down the line, potentially serious issues like high blood pressure and cancer. All the companies listed above carry a range of faucet, bath, and shower filters, which are decently priced and easy to install on your own.


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Wansien Lee
Wansien Lee is the Life & Style Editor for City Weekend Shanghai. She's Malaysian by name, but funnily enough has never lived in Malaysia. She likes writing about food and travel, and will probably end up the crazy lady down the street with thirty-seven cats.


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