Posted on Jul 08, 2015 by Rob McBroom
While China has a lot to offer to just about any expat or visitor, from stunning vistas to mega cities, one endless complaint comes up again and again: the air in many cities, especially the nation’s capital, is often dangerously polluted. While we know air pollution is generally bad, and despite recent efforts by the government to increase overall quality, we may not be aware of the health problems it can cause and how this affects you when it comes to purchasing or renewing health insurance.
Why is air pollution so bad?
Before we look into this, it would first be a good idea to define what we mean by air pollution. According to the WHO, “Industries, households, cars and trucks emit complex mixtures of air pollutants, many of which are harmful to health. Of all of these pollutants, fine particulate matter has the greatest effect on human health. Most fine particulate matter comes from fuel combustion, both from mobile sources such as vehicles and from stationary sources such as power plants, industry, households or biomass burning.”
The first reason air pollution is harmful to our health is that it can cause immediately noticeable negative effects. For example, have you ever noticed that when the air pollution is bad in say Beijing your eyes seem a little more sensitive or itchy, your taste seems a little duller than usual, and it is harder to breathe? That’s because these symptoms have all been linked to air pollution. Ask anyone who has a disease like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or asthma - and indeed many people without it - and they will be able to tell you that when the air pollution is bad, they definitely notice increased troubles in breathing. That’s because air pollution is known to aggravate certain conditions.
And while these symptoms are indeed harmful, it is quickly becoming evident that prolonged exposure to air pollution can have a serious negative effect on your health. So much so that in late 2013 the WHO, along with a number of other cancer organizations including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified outdoor air pollution as a carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer. The report found some strong correlation between lung cancer and air pollution.
Lung cancer in China
On a global scale, the WHO has estimated that air pollution is the cause of roughly 16% of lung cancer deaths, while in China doctors have seen a dramatic increase in the number of lung cancer cases with the country seeing approximately a third of the total worldwide lung cancer cases - according to an article published by the Bloomberg in 2014.
In fact, an article published last year in the China Daily found that the number of cases of a specific type of lung cancer - adenocarcinoma - is on the rise in Beijing. The article noted that in a study performed by the Beijing Office for Cancer Prevention and Control found that over a 10 year period the percentage of adenocarcinoma cases in the city rose from 42.83 percent to 46.80 percent, while the total number of lung cancer cases increased nearly by nearly 50% from 2002-2010.
What does an increase in lung cancer mean?
While there are many potential issues related to a rise in air pollution related lung cancer, one of the most obvious is an increase in demand for medical care. This means an increased strain on an already strained medical system and most likely lower availability of quality care and higher costs associated to care. Beyond that, it will also likely result in an increased cost of health insurance, especially if the number of cases continues to rise at this alarming rate.
Is there anything that can be done?
As we mentioned above, the main cause of adenocarcinoma is in fact air pollution, so one of the first steps to take should be to reduce the amount of pollution in the air. Of course, in the short term this is nearly impossible in many of the cities in China, so it would be a good idea to pursue other options.
To help come up with some ideas, we reached out to one of our partners in China, Renaud Air. Allen Emil Adamusiak – Senior Air Quality Specialist explained, “Indoor air quality is one of the most important, yet overlooked, issues that have a huge impact on your health. As we never know what exactly is in the air, in China, it is vital to protect yourself, and your family from harmful air pollution. An article released in 2013 gives evidence that in parts of China your life expectancy may be shortened by over 5 years and with more emissions being released each year due to an expanding economy this number will only rise.
One of the best methods to protect your family, while avoiding hospital visits related to pollution, is to use a premium air purifier in each bedroom and living room in your home. You should look for a product that uses HEPA filtration that also has a layer of Activated Carbon in the filter. HEPA filters remove 99.97% of PM 2.5 particles that we breathe. While activated Carbon is key in adsorbing hazardous gases, chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
You never want to regret taking a post in China and it having a negative effect on your or your child’s health. Especially with the young being so vulnerable. It is always best to take extra precautions.”
Beyond that, it could also benefit you to secure a strong health insurance plan that will cover all associated costs, you should you be diagnosed with lung cancer. Our experts at Pacific Prime China can help you find an ideal plan, and even explain more about your coverage options. Contact them today.