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    A Crown Solution: Clean air

    Are companies liable for the air their expatriates breathe?

    Air pollution is a major social and political issue in China. Chinese names have consistently dominated rankings for cities with the dirtiest outdoor air, with the capital Beijing often taking the top spot as one of the dirtiest cities in the world.

    Dangerous indoor air

    While outdoor air often dominates pollution headlines for China, indoor air quality can be a more sinister risk to people’s health that is often over looked. Due to China’s rapid development and poor quality supervision, indoor space in expatriate apartments and houses can harbor unseen dangers. Concrete and wood flooring can be laced with toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing process such as formaldehyde, ammonia and benzene. Paints in China can contain high levels of lead which is easily absorbed into the skin of young children. Stone-based building materials risk emitting lung cancer causing radon. Poor insulation and leaking pipes lead to black mold growth (Stachybotrys chartarum) which is linked to mental impairment and respiratory problems.

    When recruiting expatriate talent to work in China, companies are increasing faced with concerns linked to air pollution and the possible impact on children’s health. Companies are also considering any legal liability should an expatriate or their family develop serious health problems during their assignment in China. Could a company be held liable should an expatriate’s child develop health problems after a company-sponsored move to China?

    One Crown client based in China decided that indoor air quality was a concern that needed to be formally addressed within its relocation policy. Beyond showing the company’s commitment to its employees’ health and well-being, it also made economic sense. When leasing a property in China, companies pay a large deposit that can be forfeited if the tenant breaks the lease term. An increase in concerns over indoor air quality have been a reason tenants have left leased properties early, causing a dispute with the landlord that often leads to the loss of a deposit by the company. In addition, poor indoor air quality has caused expatriate families to reconsider their assignments in China, decide the risks to their families were too great, end their expatriate assignments and return home, causing significant economic losses to their companies.

    Our client approached Crown to incorporate indoor air testing as a process step in the lease finalization for properties in China. The client wanted to ensure that any property it leased in China had full air and water testing completed before the lease was finalized to ensure the domicile was safe for habitation. This key step in the relocation process would not only show the company’s commitment to its expatriates’ health, it also mitigated the risk of early lease termination, forfeiture of housing deposits, and even possible early termination of the expatriate assignments.

    Crown China offices partnered with Pureliving, a leading indoor environmental testing company that specializes in providing English-speaking consultants with government-certified lab test results in an easy-to-understand format. Crown manages the testing process in conjunction with the home finding and lease finalization. As the testing can impact the finalization of a lease and securing a preferred property, Crown was challenged to explain the testing to local landlords. Landlords in some cases were reluctant to hold a property while a testing was being completed and agreeing to terms that if a house failed testing standards, the tenant would not finalize the lease. However, Crown found that once landlords understood the testing and that they would be provided a copy of the results at no cost, they also saw value in having their properties certified as safe indoor air standards. Landlords could use the results to market their rental units to future tenants as “certified safe”.

    China air pollution challenges will continue to make headlines for years to come. But Crown Relocations now has a process in place to help corporate clients and expatriate families understand indoor air pollution risks, and find solutions to ensure their families’ indoor air safety during their assignments in China.

    For more information on Crown Relocations and air testing for leased properties in China, contact Ryan Metz at Crown World Mobility,