When healthy international travelers visit a city with higher levels of particle pollution than at home, their heart and lung function quickly deteriorate, a small study suggests.
Travelers with existing respiratory or heart disease in particular may want to plan ahead to protect themselves in highly polluted places, the study authors write in the Journal of Travel Medicine.
“Travelers may be exposed to a completely different environment in a new city, within a matter of hours, lacking the necessary knowledge and adaptation to pollution in those cities,” senior study author Terry Gordon of the New York University School of Medicine told Reuters Health by email.
More than 1.2 billion people travel the world each year, and many who travel to “megacities” with more than 10 million residents may find themselves in areas with high levels of air pollution, he noted.
“Most international travelers get their vaccinations for infectious diseases and learn about diseases and disasters in their intended destinations,” he added. “Very few, however, even consider air pollution, which can harm their health and may ruin their overall travel experience.”
Gordon and his colleagues recruited 34 healthy nonsmoking adults living in the New York City area who were planning international trips to large cities, and who agreed to measure their own cardiovascular and lung function before, during and after their trips.