Study: Beijing air quality not much better indoors

The city is struggling with red alert smog situations.

Alex Bourque | Jan 25, 2016

There's just no escaping the smog in Beijing.

As the city continues to struggle with smog red alerts, a study has found that workers staying inside their offices isn't doing them much good, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The study, put out by JLL, a real-estate firm, found that indoor air quality was just as bad as the outdoors in 90 percent of cases. This is based on tests in 160 office buildings in Beijing, with measurements taken in five locations in each office, and then compared to the outdoors to serve as a baseline. The researchers also measured air quality in the elevator lobby, the hallways, the bathrooms, and even the stairwells.

They found that the vast majority of the buildings were unable to maintain safe levels of PM2.5. PM2.5 refers to pollutants that are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which can penetrate human lungs and cause damage.

Bathrooms and stairwells were often the worst, although that may be due to smokers lighting up there and trying to evade an indoor smoking ban in the city.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, a fourth of all buildings appeared to show worse air quality indoors than outdoors.

Those who work in offices in Beijing can take steps to protect their health. In-ceiling air purifiers appear to be the best way to reduce PM2.5, but they can be quite expensive. Other types of less expensive air purifiers can be used throughout the office. It may prove to be a sound business investment, as research seems to indicate that those who work in cleaner environments tend to be more productive.

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