China pollution

Poor quality of air purifiers in China doesn’t help buyers breathe easy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 4:13pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 11:05pm

Mainland residents battling hazardous smog are facing another threat – this time from their air filters.

About a quarter of the air purifiers tested by the country’s quality-control authority could not remove pollutants efficiently without making too much noise. The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine tested appliances from about one-fifth of all manufacturers in China.

In addition, some purifiers did not meet the safety standards for electrical appliances, meaning users risked getting electric shocks from leaked current, the watchdog announced last week.

In the first nationwide quality inspection of air cleaners, officials found that 15 batches, or 24.6 per cent of the total number examined, failed to meet quality requirements.

One of the ineffective models was made by the Shanghai subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

During the inspection, officers ran the purifiers in a cabin filled with smoke and tested the amount of pollutants left in the air after a period of time.

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The test found some products did not remove polluting particles at the same rate as stated on their packaging.

Other types fell short in noise control or their ability to eliminate formaldehyde, a hazardous chemical released from furniture or building materials.

Severe air pollution across the country has made air purifiers a must-have for many families, and their sales usually skyrocket in autumn and winter when pollution becomes more serious in northern China.

More than five million air purifiers are expected to be sold on the mainland in 2016, a 14.2 per cent rise from last year, according to the state-run think tank CCID Consulting.

During the week-long National Day holiday in October, the e-commerce giant recorded a surge in air purifier sales as people in the north braced for a new round of smog, according to CCID Consulting.

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But as home appliance companies rush in to grab a piece of the lucrative market, more consumers are questioning whether the equipment really makes a difference.

In an October survey conducted by the quality watchdog, air cleaners were found to be one of the top 10 products mainland consumers wanted inspected.

The distrust of domestic products has given rise to a group of daigou, or shopping agents, who specialise in purchasing air purifiers from overseas.

On e-commerce platform Taobao, some sellers offer to help customers purchase appliances from shopping malls in Japan, Korea, Germany and the United States.

The prices, inclusive of the agents’ fees, range from several hundred yuan to about 4,000 yuan (HK$4,600).

The disappointing performance of air purifiers also sparked another wave of complaints about China’s persistent air pollution.

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“If the air could meet its quality standard, why would we need air cleaners,” a Weibo user commented on a post about the inspection results.

“Our air is 100 per cent low quality,” another user wrote.

The central government has taken various measures to tackle the smog problem and the public discontent it has caused.

Its efforts include sending inspection teams nationwide to find polluters and setting up a no-coal zone in Hebei province, home of some of the smoggiest cities in China.

From November 2017, factories and households in 18 districts and towns in Hebei will not be allowed to burn coal or build petroleum coke-powered generators.