In many parts of the world, poor air quality is a significant public health problem. The health effects of air pollution are complex; studies have shown exposure to high levels of air pollution over short time periods (e.g. minutes/hours/days) and longer time periods (e.g. years) is linked to many different acute and chronic health problems. These effects are mainly on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Air pollution is a complex mix of particles and gases, and concentrations of pollutants are often highest in the urban areas of low- and middle-income countries. Particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide(NO2) are both major components of urban air pollution. Current information on world air quality is available from a number of sources including World Health Organization (WHO), AirNow and World Air Quality Index Project.
Travellers with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions should consider whether a particular destination is appropriate for them if pollution levels are known to be high during their planned stay.
In areas where poor air quality is a concern, all travellers should:
It is unclear if face masks are beneficial at reducing exposure and may make breathing more difficult for those with pre-existing lung conditions. Those who choose to use a mask should make sure that it fits well and know how to wear it properly.