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City moves to improve quality of indoor air

SHANGHAI is getting tough on offices, restaurants, malls and other public venues that subject people to an unhealthy indoor atmosphere because of air conditioners that aren't properly cleaned.

Venue owners who don't clean up their heating and cooling systems could be fined up to 50,000 yuan (US$7,321), be ordered to make immediate corrections and face media exposure, according to the draft of a new health management provision on central air-conditioning equipment.

The draft is under discussion by city government and is expected to be issued before the end of this year, officials from the Shanghai Health Supervision Agency, which wrote the new rule, said yesterday.

"The proposed regulation will help improve indoor air quality and prevent the spread of disease," said Wang Pin, director of the Shanghai Health Supervision Agency's venue supervision department.

The proposal follows up on a 2006 Ministry of Health rule that covered the cleaning of only some parts of air-conditioning systems and contained no penalty provisions for violators.

Also yesterday, the ministry named Shanghai as one of the pilot areas that were selected to study supervision of the sector.

The "hygiene situation of air-conditioning systems is directly related to indoor air quality, and improving the hygiene of central air-conditioning systems can control the spread of infectious diseases in public venues and protect public health," the ministry said in a notice.

The document also ordered health authorities to investigate public-venue air-conditioning systems in their areas.

The local health authority now carries out spot checks for contaminants such as formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, dirt and bacteria. It has found that only 20 to 30 percent of local public venues have their air-conditioning systems cleaned regularly and effectively.

Local officials said that the lack of effective punishment is the main reason for the poor cleaning practices and low indoor air quality. Health supervision agencies can fine offenders no more than 800 yuan at present.

Offices covered

"The draft has mandatory requirements for venue owners to clean their systems, gives more direction on enforcement and punishment and covers office buildings," Wang said.

Though the ministry's earlier rules covered 3,000 to 4,000 types of venues such as hotels, restaurants, public transport, museums and stores, offices were not on the list.

The draft also requires venue owners to hire professionally qualified companies to carry out the cleaning.


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