Do you work in a Chinese skyscraper?

I used to. And I wasn’t entirely surprised to read this scary report. A report from the government-run media, not foreign devils.

Nearly all of China’s fast-rising number of skyscrapers are filled with excessive air pollutants that could cause serious harm to office workers, state press said.

In the capital of Beijing, 81 percent of the buildings tested by the National Interior Decoration Association last year had excessive levels of ammonia, the China Daily reported.

Half of the buildings also contained unsafe levels of ozone and 42 percent were polluted with formaldehyde, all of which can cause severe health conditions such as asthma and Legionnaires’ disease, according to the paper.

In Shenzhen, the richest city in southern China, the local authority for disease prevention and control carried out similar tests last year and found more than 90 per cent of the offices had excessive air pollutants.

In Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province, 89.8 percent of 572 new and remodelled offices contained high levels of air pollutants, with some having ammonia levels 18 times above safety standards, the paper said.

“If you scan every office building against the official indoor air quality standard, you can rarely find one that is fully qualified,” the paper quoted the decoration association’s director of indoor environment testing, Song Guangsheng, as saying.

Construction and decoration materials, furniture, electronic apparatuses and poor ventilation all contribute to the air pollution, according to Song.

The report indicated the situation for China’s growing number of office workers had not improved from 2003, when the government established indoor air quality standards.

Government statistics released then said as many as 111,000 people died of indoor pollution annually in China.

What do you have to do to survive China’s environment? Wear a space suit and carry Evian spring water with you everywhere you go?

The Discussion: 25 Comments

Any recent reports on how buildings in the US have fared? I know indoor air is never good, and there were certainly concerns in the US in recent years as well.

I am by no means justifying crappy air in China. Just want a comparison.

February 21, 2006 @ 5:55 pm | Comment

I am by no means justifying crappy air in China. Just want a comparison.

Hahahahaha, so eager to explain why you are not feverishly denouncing China.

“Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anything good about China”.

“Let me just first say that I’m not praising China”

“Oh God forbid a positive word slips out of my mouth when talking about China! Please forgive me!”

You guys disgust me….

February 21, 2006 @ 6:04 pm | Comment

We love you, too, CH.

I love China. I think we all do. I love America, too. To criticize it and point out how it can be improved is to love it.

February 21, 2006 @ 6:25 pm | Comment

Don’t mind China Hand, he’ll just say a bunch of obnoxious things and then run away when the heat is on.
In fact, your childishness disgusts me, China_hand. Come on, this isn’t “qiangguo luntan,” buddy.

February 21, 2006 @ 6:29 pm | Comment

Have any of you reading TPD ever worked in the construction field?

I spent 7 years as an Electrician before I decided to go back to college and let me tell you, there’s no way in hell the shoddy crap they call construction work would pass a hillbilly inspection in the deep hills of Kentucky.

I’ve sat and watched construction workers in the process of raising a building in various parts of China and the corners they are willing to cut just blow me away (especially the electrical work).

My apartment in Chengdu was only a few years old and it was riddled with safety violations (visit my site and do a keyword search for “electrical work).

I can sum up Chinese contruction work in one word: Frightening!

February 21, 2006 @ 7:06 pm | Comment

I love the way they put a splash of paint and those shiny tiles on the outside of ‘new’ apartment buildings. Then it’s a race against time to sell the units before the cracks start to appear. Just to end on a positive note, these constructions go up very, very, quickly.

February 21, 2006 @ 7:47 pm | Comment

Lots of “Dou Fu Zha” projects in China indeed, this is a result of local authorities not following regulations and lining their own pockets with construction funds. But enforcment of regulations have improved dramatically over the years, especially in major cities. Many third world countries suffer from much worse shoddy constructions, as almost all buildings in Pakistan and India that were supposed to withstand certain degrees of eathquakes failed to do so during earthquakes.

February 21, 2006 @ 7:50 pm | Comment

I denounce China all the time when it comes to CCP destroying Chinese culture, and the oppression of the Chinese people, from those stretching in public as the Falun Gong do, to those who get incarcerated or killed for standing for what they believe in. I love China, as well as the democracy and I’m sure one day it will become.

As for China_hand’s comments, my perspective on that is:

Never argue with an idiot. He’ll bring you down to his level, and then he’ll beat you with his experience.

February 21, 2006 @ 8:04 pm | Comment

As always, CH is blaming only “local authorities” as though they exist in a vacuum. All the central leaders were once “local authorities,” too. Did they suddenly and instantaneously morph from bribe-taking evil bureaucrats into righteous, do-no-wrong munificent leaders and saviors of the people? Sorry, they all come from the same kettle of fish. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad. But to talk abuot them as though they are separate and unconnected entities is nonsense.

February 21, 2006 @ 8:22 pm | Comment

Also is changing the topic from “how things stand with air quality, ” to whether or not enforcement of laws have improved, which has no bearing on the former.

February 21, 2006 @ 8:47 pm | Comment

As always, CH is blaming only “local authorities” as though they exist in a vacuum. All the central leaders were once “local authorities,” too. Did they suddenly and instantaneously morph from bribe-taking evil bureaucrats into righteous, do-no-wrong munificent leaders and saviors of the people? Sorry, they all come from the same kettle of fish. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad. But to talk abuot them as though they are separate and unconnected entities is nonsense.

Yes richard, when you move from the local villege chief’s office to Zhongnanhai (which takes about 20-30 years of time, people change you know?), everything changes. I mean George Bush receives C’s in school and regularly drunk drives, yet he is a pretty responsible President now, no?

February 21, 2006 @ 8:49 pm | Comment

Also is changing the topic from “how things stand with air quality, ” to whether or not enforcement of laws have improved, which has no bearing on the former.

Gordon is the one who brought up the issue of building construction in China.

February 21, 2006 @ 8:51 pm | Comment

Yeah, we all know, CH; local officials bad, central party officials good. Same simplistic nonsense as always. You use it as blatant apologism for any CCP wrongdoing. “Oh, that was done by local officials….”

February 21, 2006 @ 8:57 pm | Comment

Richard, I do not “apologize” for any CCP wrongdoing, I always go to the source of the wrongdoing. And in this case, it’s the local officials.

February 21, 2006 @ 9:02 pm | Comment

Yes, and those local officials are part of the CCP. To whom do they answer? The US Congress?

February 21, 2006 @ 9:20 pm | Comment

Skystreaker, I think you made a good point above about arguing with China Hand.

February 21, 2006 @ 9:20 pm | Comment

Gordon, I have a similar experience. I grew up in a family that ran an excavation company, so I pay particular attention to the use of dozers, backhoes, dump trucks, skid loaders, and the like.

I have been frightened to see deisel loaders dumping buckets of debris into dump trucks parked *in traffic*, with watermelon-sized rocks spilling over the sides directly into oncoming traffic! I have photos of “me-first! me-first!” Chinese scooter drivers cutting through street construction to dart directly beneath the laden buckets of moving loaders. :-0 Another common sight is fool-hardy pedestrians darting behind heavy construction equipment as it maneuvers or backs up.

I’ve also seen men working in scary-looking trenches, and poorly-marked street work (same danger for vehicles as all those open sidewalk access boxes pose for pedestrians).

I have to add the usual China caveats: it seems to be improving quickly, at least here in the Big City. And of couse, I’m sure it’s no different in other developng nations, although that doesn’t make it any less scary when you see it.

Readers, please be careful around those crawler backhoes and dump trucks – their operaters have very poor visibility from their cabs.

Gordon, hope you are having an easier time finding hamburger buns now. ๐Ÿ™‚

February 21, 2006 @ 10:19 pm | Comment

Indoor air pollution has been a real problem in the US as well, but it’s gotten a lot better – the first step is recognizing the problem. It seems that China has the regulations on paper but enforcement as usual is the issue.

I think having the government release these kinds of reports is a positive step. Obviously the regulatory agencies want to improve the situation, or they wouldn’t be publicizing it.

I still wouldn’t want to live or work in a Beijing high rise though…

February 21, 2006 @ 10:40 pm | Comment

China_Hand said,
“Many third world countries suffer from much worse shoddy constructions, as almost all buildings in Pakistan and India that were supposed to withstand certain degrees of eathquakes failed to do so during earthquakes.”
Ok, so you concede China is very much a Third World country. And I hate to point out again that you are comparing “down” instead of measuring “up” like you ususally do. China’s design and construction problems are not yet tested by a R. Scale 7, so spare Pakistan for now, alright?!
Your nationalistic pride is sometimes so fragile, CH!
๐Ÿ˜‰

February 22, 2006 @ 12:07 am | Comment

I remember the visit of a friend’s father, who wasa scientist working on materials (how d’you call that, a materialist ?); he was talking about how dangerous the way they build buildings was – normally, after pouring a layer of cement, you’re supposed to wait for a certain time before going on with the next layer, but they just wouldn’t stop.

Building the buildings really fast may not be the best thing.

February 22, 2006 @ 12:32 am | Comment

Sorry guys i’m not a pro in chemistry, so could anyone expalaine to me which construction material could emit ammonia or ozon; sounds strange to my ears? Also, how are these substances in any way connected to Legionnaires’ disease, which is a bacterial disease?

February 22, 2006 @ 1:47 am | Comment

This really isn’t about construction practice and safety:

“Construction and decoration materials, furniture, electronic apparatuses and poor ventilation all contribute to the air pollution, according to Song.”

The VOC’s given off by furniture, fixtures, laminates, trim pieces, paint, et al. at a typical, new or remodeled building project in China are enough to literally sear your lungs. I have no technical knowledge of the quality of adhesives, finishes, coatings et al. used here, but my nose, eyes, and lungs know enough to pity all the workers who must come into contact with them.

At my last school, a new section of dormitories went up that included new residences for foreign teachers and guest lecturers. We had to stay out of the new apartments for over a month, waiting for the noxious vapors to subside. Our building sat empty for that time, fully decorated and fitted out, with every single windows open. When we moved in, the compounds were still leaching out of all the fixtures and furniture and it remained a rather eye-wateringly unpleasant life for another month or two. When a new development went up across from the campus, a lot of Chinese teachers and administrators bought new apartments. Of course, here, almost everyone needs to build out their apartment to their liking as their purchase price basically consists of a shell. To a person, everyone I knew who bought a place responded the same way to to my query:

“So, when are you moving in?”

“Mmm, maybe after some weeks while we wait for the apartment to finish.”

“But you told me the workers had finished.”

“Yes, but we must ventilate the rooms.”

The same holds true for any little ol’ shop or hole in the wall being built out or remodeled. As probably anyone living in China can agree, walking down the sidewalk, the smell as you pass by is really enough to knock you sideways out into the street.

February 22, 2006 @ 3:38 am | Comment

Slim,

I don’t know that I’ve ever really noticed their handling of heavy equipment, but it sounds like it’s on par with everything else.

I remember walking home to my apartment in Hangzhou one day. It had been pouring down rain which had reduced to a sprinkle and I passed a crew of worker digging away in a pit near the curb. I stopped a few feet away to see what they were doing (besides digging a big hole).

The first thing I noticed was the guy swinging the pick-axe. Not only was he slipping and sliding around in the hole as he swung that thing around, but it was doing it in flip-flops.

Good thing he had a hard hat on.

Then I figured out what they were doing. I heard one of the other workers tell him to keep digging because the main electric line must be around there somewhere……

I got the hell out of there.

February 22, 2006 @ 4:38 am | Comment

Shulan, this piece of news is really odd. I think there is something lost in the translation/compilation process. My best guess is that report refers to the so called ‘sick office syndrome’ caused by inadequate ventilation. Then everything makes sense. Ozone can be generated by office equipments, such as fax machines. Ammonia is probably from liquid cleaners. Some parts of central air-conditioning systems may harbor Legionella bacteria.

February 22, 2006 @ 4:00 pm | Comment

I know that quite a few unhealthy materials are used in “fixing up” houses here. Now in Shanghai they’ve learned how to make money off of this, by sending someone in to “inspect” your house for unhealthy materials. My guess is that they have no idea what they’re doing, and would probably replace anything you have with something even worse, but hey, that’s how things work here, i guess.

February 23, 2006 @ 7:54 pm | Comment

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