A study by the European Transport & Environment association published on Friday confirmed that spending a few days in various popular European capitals is equivalent to smoking between one and four cigarettes.
Spending a long weekend in Paris could be as bad for your health as smoking two cigarettes. But this is at least a lot less polluted than in Prague, where your mini-break could be the equivalent of smoking four cigarettes, or even worse in Beijing, where it could be same as puffing up to 16 cigarettes.
You no longer need to sit next to a dedicated smoker to be a victim of passive smoking. Air pollution is such that you only have to walk around for a few days to breathe the toxic equivalent of several cigarettes. This study obviously has serious implications for tourists, who typically spend their days wandering the streets visiting sites, but it also will cause concern for native cyclists and joggers striving for a healthier lifestyle but instead exposing themselves to toxins.
The Transport & Environment study compared the contamination from fine particles of the ten largest European tourist cities by converting it into the number of cigarettes smoked. The NGO used a method of calculation created by Berkeley Earth, an international climate association.
According to Berkeley Earth, the most harmful pollution consists of small particulate matter, 2.5 microns in size or less. These particles are small enough to work their way deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream, where they trigger heart attacks, stroke, lung cancer and asthma. It shows that breathing 22 micrograms of fine particles has the same health effects as smoking a cigarette. In Paris, this is equal to 183 cigarettes every year.
This study comes just weeks after Paris and other departments in Ile-de-France were put on high alert over a rise in ozone levels due to the recent heat-wave. The ozone pollution also caused immediate health issues, including a rise in rhinitis and asthma attacks.
More deadly than malaria or AIDS
This is much more serious than simply having stinging eyes and a blocked nose. According to Berkeley Earth, air pollution kills more people worldwide each year than AIDS, malaria, diabetes or tuberculosis. In their statement, they say that “for the United States and Europe, air pollution is equivalent in detrimental health effects to smoking 0.4 to 1.6 cigarettes per day. In China the numbers are far worse; on bad days the health effects of air pollution are comparable to the harm done smoking three packs per day (60 cigarettes) by every man, woman, and child.
“Air pollution is arguably the greatest environmental catastrophe in the world today.”