Pollution and its effects on health

It is clear that pollution is not good for the human body and that the air in cities is not as fresh as in the countryside. However, does it have an actual impact on health? According to recently released studies, it might be: air pollution could cause heart and respiratory problems.

Small particles of pollution have the potential to evade the lungs’ protective filter system, which could lead to them being accumulated in our blood vessels. Not only does this mean that you have these unhealthy particles in your body, but also that you are increasing your chances of having a heart attack.

What does this mean for expats?

Air pollution makes people think twice about moving to a big city. Cities that have a smog of pollution lose their charm and don’t have that same appeal to foreigners. Foreigners that do move to very polluted cities might end up having a lower quality of life, or according to some studies, getting sick more often. This affects expats coming from smaller cities or towns because unlike the locals, they are not used to breathing that air.

Many cities in China and in India have been reported as unsafe by the Ministry of Environmental Protection because of the low air quality. For example, in Mumbai, the air pollution is getting worse and worse because more unsafe particles are in the air. In China, some multinational firms’ CEOs are even considering relocating to coastal areas or to smaller cities, instead of the major cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Some expats are also leaving these polluted cities or considering moving the countryside.

Air Quality Index

Certain criterias need to be evaluated to see how bad the air pollution in certain cities is, so that citizens can be aware of the health risks. The Air Quality Index measures the ground-level ozone, the particulate matter, the carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in different cities. This helps communicate to the people which cities and countries meet the revised safe level of PM2.5 particles in the air, the ones linked to respiratory and cardiac illness.

The air quality is rated on a scale of one to 500, 500 being hazardous. The more traffic, burnt fossil fuels, smelting and metal processing a country has, the more dangerous it becomes for its citizens. For example, because of these activities, only three of China’s big cities have met the standards set for PM2.5 particles by the Ministry of Environmental Protection; Haikou, Lhasa and Zhoushan.

Moving or living in a city could mean putting your health at risk. Although more research needs to be done about the link between heart diseases and air pollution, we can’t deny the fact that this matter has to be taken seriously.