Pollution and Respiratory Health in Dubai
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Pollution and Respiratory Health in Dubai

Concerned with the air quality in Dubai? You should be. Studies have shown that the particulate matter in Dubai's air is some of the highest in the world. Here, UMI breaks down for you what that means and what you can do to protect your lungs. Read on to find out more.



Beijing. New Delhi. Mexico City. These places pop up in the news all the time because of their air pollution. Dubai, on the other hand, isn’t known as a particularly polluted place. Indeed; the air quality in Dubai is better than in many developed countries – but there’s much evidence that Dubai’s air is not as clean as it should be and may be getting worse.

Whereas pollution in developing nations like China and India often arises from industrial sources, in Dubai pollution is usually related to particulate matter in the air. Sand, dust and chemicals are all very small particles able to travel through the air and enter our lungs. Particulate matter, especially the small and fine variety less than 10 micrometers in diameter, can cause serious health problems including asthma, a chronic cough and breathing problems, and – in extreme cases – decreased lung function or even lung disease. People who have existing lung problems or heart disease, along with the elderly and young children, run greater risks when exposed to harmful particulate matter.

The particulate pollution in Dubai is largely due to the city’s naturally dry and sandy landscape, and to the presence of near-constant home and commercial construction projects. To be sure, Dubai’s construction boom is a boon to both industry and the economy. It is one of the five fastest growing economies in the world, but this growth and development might be coming at the expense of its residents’ respiratory health.

Putting up with particulates
One simple way to avoid unhealthy exposure to particulate pollution is to avoid prolonged, strenuous physical activity outdoors when pollution is high. Instead, exercise indoors or trade an activity like running for a less exerting walk, and try to exercise away from busy roads. It’s also important to remember that particulate pollution does not begin and end outside. To reduce pollution indoors, try a high-quality filtration system and avoid smoking and burning candles or incense.

Besides construction, air quality in Dubai is also affected by the large amount of traffic throughout the city. Dubai has one of the world’s highest car ownership ratios, with one car for every two people. Political leaders and scientists agree that high automobile usage is contributing to the emirate’s pollution problems, and in 2014 Dubai’s Director General even suggested restricting car ownership to improve air quality.  

Indeed, air pollution is affected not only by cars on the road but also by cars idling in traffic or while waiting to pick up passengers. The harmful effects of vehicle exhaust include constriction of airways, worsening of asthma and even cancer – as many cars emit carcinogenic chemicals.

One way to contribute to better air quality is to consider investing in an electric vehicle, and encouraging public policy that fines idling cars or offers tax breaks to owners of low-pollution autos. To protect personal health, wear a purifying face mask when walking on busy roads – especially if you already suffer from asthma or another condition affecting the function of the lungs. The right mask should be of a high quality, cover the nose and mouth comfortably and include a certified filtration system to protect from emissions and particulate matter. Do be aware that flimsy, disposable face masks stop being effective after just a few hours – and excessive talking or humidity will reduce their longevity even further, as these masks no longer function when wet.        

Healthy lungs are happy lungs
To protect your lung health every day, take precautions like not smoking and staying away from areas with high levels of second-hand smoke. When possible, stay away from street level exhaust fumes and wear a face mask on particularly dusty days. You can also keep your lungs strong and healthy by exercising frequently. Regular exercise increases the fitness of your lungs and heart so that when pollution is high, you won’t experience asthma or shortness of breath as your lungs will still be strong enough to function well. Even the right diet can help lung health – a 2010 study found that people who eat anti-oxidant-rich, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and kale can cut their risk of lung cancer in half.

Prevention is important, because lung-related medical issues can cost you time, money, and of course your long-term health.  Asthma, chronic respiratory syndrome and lung cancer are all chronic conditions that require management over a number of years – doctor’s visits, laboratory examinations, medication and potentially surgical procedures. Wherever possible, avoid these by taking preventative actions to protect your body from the harmful effects of pollution. Finally, if lung health is a concern (or if you regularly engage in activities like smoking or working in construction), it’s a good idea to consider purchasing an insurance policy that will protect you financially in case lung health becomes a serious concern. The right policy will help you access disease screening, low-cost pharmaceuticals and visits with a specialist physician to keep your respiratory health in check.

To find the policy that fits your lung health needs, as well as your wallet, contact UMI today! Our helpful staff are standing by to answer all of your questions and provide you with a free quote.

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