Tips for reducing health risks from air pollution in China
As you are probably aware, the harmful effects of air pollution in major Chinese cities has been a cause of ongoing concern for the population’s health and wellbeing. One of the main reasons for such high pollution levels is the observably poor compliance to environmental standards at industrial plants, and with China producing the highest total industrial output globally, harmful levels of PM2.5 pollutant matter (particles small enough to penetrate the lungs) are continuously emitted into the atmosphere, day in and day out.
World news headlines and social media sites continue to see the ubiquitous presence of China’s health pollution problem, and rightly so, as it tops the world in most types of air pollution due to the high presence of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon emissions. By 2017, Beijing aims to reduce its annual levels of PM2.5 from its 2013 level of 89.5 micrograms per cubic meter to 60 micrograms per cubic meter – an ambitious aim that still seems nearly impossible considering the city’s current reduction rate, with a recorded level of 80.6 micrograms reported at the end of 2015.
Especially when considering the increased mortality and premature deaths linked to air pollutant exposure, there’s a pressing need for the Chinese government to implement pollution reduction measures, especially in its major cities. From a personal perspective, there are also a number of things you can do to reduce the health risks associated with air pollution, a key few of which are addressed in this article.
What are the health risks associated with air pollution?
A staggering 1.6 million deaths in China per year have been attributed to toxic air pollution, as air pollutants have been reportedly linked to a number of health risks. Certain groups of people are more susceptible to air pollution health risks than others, such as pregnant women, the elderly, young children, people with heart disease, and people with lung conditions.
According to Spare The Air, some of the health risks associated with exposure to heavy air pollution include:
- Cardiovascular disease, e.g. stroke
- Respiratory conditions, e.g. asthma
- Loss of lung capacity
- Reduced resistance to infections
- There’s also an increased risk of lung cancer from prolonged exposure to air pollution
While there are groups of people that are particularly vulnerable to these health risks, even the healthiest of individuals may develop some of the symptoms common from pollution exposure, such as wheezing and dry throat. This is why it is important for anyone living in major cities within China to mitigate the health risks caused by air pollution.
Top tips for mitigating health risks from air pollution
The health risks mentioned above may seem scary, but there are a few things you can do to minimize them.
One method of significantly reducing exposure to air pollutants is to stay indoors, especially during high air pollution days. To check air pollution levels in your area, be sure to follow government warnings and local news. It may also help to look at real-time China pollution maps (like this one).
Although air pollution particles do infiltrate indoors, its concentrations are typically much lower indoors than outdoors. To lower the infiltration of air pollution, an article in the Journal of Thoracic Disease suggests closing windows, as this action alone can effectively reduce air exchange rates by approximately 50%.
Consider buying an indoor air purifier
You may also want to buy an air cleaning device (e.g. a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter) for your home, as this can help reduce the concentrations of air pollution and the levels of PM2.5 indoors. The rate at which pollutants are removed will depend on a range of factors such as the size of your home and the ventilation rate of your air purifier.
Try to stay away from heavily trafficked roads
If you’re going out for a jog or cycling around the city, it’s highly advised to stay away from heavily trafficked roads to avoid traffic-related air pollutants. These include particles from combustion engines, tire and vehicle wear, and road dust. If you have been walking near any major roadways, it’s a good idea to wash your clothes and take a shower after you get home to rid yourself of harmful fine particles.
Wear a protective mask
Sometimes, it’s hard to avoid being out during polluted days, especially when you have to commute to work. It might not look very fashionable, but wearing a protective mask or even a personal respirator can significantly help lower your exposure to air pollutants on urban streets, and can be especially beneficial for people who are more susceptible to health risks caused by air pollution.
As revealed in this article, air pollution in China can really have a negative impact on your health, so it’s important to secure a private health insurance plan so that you are protected in the event that you require quality medical treatment from private or international hospitals. If you’ve got any questions on health plans, contact our team of experienced advisors today.
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When she's not typing away on her keyboard, she's reading poetry, fueling her insatiable wanderlust, getting her coffee fix, and perpetually browsing animal Instagram accounts.
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