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Parents push schools to install air purifiers

2013-12-10 13:16 Shanghai Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan

With Shanghai suffering one of its worst bouts of pollution, concerned parents, worried about their children's health, are urging schools to install air purifiers in classrooms.

Parents said the purifiers are necessary after Shanghai's pollution hit a record high with both the air quality index and PM2.5 density soaring to new highs since last Thursday.

Weihai and Fortune kindergartens, Soong Ching Ling School and Shanghai United International School have already installed air purifiers in some of their classrooms.

Jiang Yayun, the mother of a two-year-old child, said her daughter has been coughing for two months and doctors had told her it was due to pollution.

Jiang and other parents with similar problems then approached the principal of Fortune Kindergarten and urged the school to buy air purifiers, which they think is better than having doing nothing at all.

"Not many of us know how the air purifier works and if they can really improve the environment," the principal, surnamed Tong, said. "But I think installing air purifier is necessary since hazy days are no longer occasional in Shanghai."

Tong said parents were very anxious about their children's health. The school installed purifiers in some classrooms. It will keep a watch on possible hidden safety hazards such as noise problem and side effects.

Parents have agreed to share the cost of the air purifiers but Tong said the school will consider adding the cost into next year's budget if the purifiers work well.

Rong Yiwen, whose child goes to Shanghai United International School, said the parent committee of her daughter's class had placed an order for an air purifier which costs about 3,500 yuan (US$576).

Rong said her daughter has allergic rhinitis and is particularly susceptible to pollution.

"We should do something for our children," Rong said.

No solid evidence

Stella Zhang, an official with Shanghai United International School, said the school will not object to the parents wish but it will also not encourage every class to follow the example since there is no solid evidence to prove that air purifiers were effective in reducing air pollution.

Zhang's view was echoed by many other schools which have not installed air purifiers in the classrooms. Zhang Junjin, principal of Hetian Road Primary School in Zhabei District, said parents bought the air purifiers to comfort themselves. For the schools, the best way to reduce students' exposure to air pollution was to keep a close watch on the daily air quality index and PM2.5 density and reduce outdoor activities.

Kan Haidong, a professor of Fudan University's School of Public Health, claimed the air purifiers does help if the windows are kept closed. However, Kan said, an enclosed environment may leave children more vulnerable to upper respiratory tract infections.

"The classrooms must be ventilated from time to time to prevent infection of the upper respiratory tract among children. However, this is contradictory to the working principles of air purifiers," Kan said.

Kan said there was no perfect plan to keep students away from pollution at school but parents can buy air purifiers at home for their children.

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