Air pollution is responsible for 4.2 million deaths yearly and as the Earth warms there’s only more cause for concern. Liz Langley lists the steps you can take to protect yourself, in case the skies at your destination are not so friendly.
You’re double-checking to make sure you have everything before you leave on a trip: phone… wallet… respirator mask? Even if you don’t have asthma or another pulmonary condition, it’s something to consider if you’re going to an area with high levels of air pollution.
Poor air quality is exceedingly common; the World Health Organisation (WHO) says 91% of the population lives in places where air pollution exceeds WHO guidelines. A 2018 report from the Journal of Travel Medicine says ambient air quality may affect “both the acute and chronic state of health of the traveller”.
Top most polluted cities
As Earth warms, there is more cause for concern. According to the National Climate Assessment, climate change will increase ground-level ozone, which can cause health problems. More drought conditions may bring more wildfires, exposing people to smoke and associated respiratory issues.
Research has also “demonstrated the exacerbation of the impact of air pollution on health in hot, dry conditions”, Miriam Byrne says. Byrne is a senior lecturer of the Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies at the National University of Ireland and co-author of the Journal of Travel Medicine study.
This makes it important to research potential destinations as you craft your travel itinerary. Keep in mind that common wisdom might be outdated. For example, while most people would likely put Beijing near the top of a list of international cities with air pollution, a report from IQAir AirVisual in collaboration with Greenpeace Southeast Asia shows that seven of the 10 most polluted cities are in India, with just one in China (Hotan, in the far west of the country). Bakersfield, California, tops the American Lung Association’s recently released list of the top 10 cities with the most short-term particle pollution.
What’s the expert advice on how to keep clear from air pollution
- See your doctor before travelling and get any medications they may need after taking some exams.
- Don’t travel in full season, pollution varies by season
- Consult websites and apps that give real-time air pollution dat
- Wear a protective anti pollution mask, take medications such as inhalers with you and minimize outdoor exercise if the air is extremely polluted
- Check the indoor air quality like if they’re using air purifiers, aromatherapy and custom lighting that facilitates sleep
- Curb outdoor activities by minimizing outdoor activity around high traffic or rush-hour times and when there is fire or other pollution-heavy conditions
- Do not be afraid to seek medical treatment if necessary