China air pollution and its health impact on expats – Expat insurance

As one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world, China has roughly a 5,000 year civilization and abundant culture and tourist resources. With its rich historical heritage, China attracts more and more visitors & expats from around the globe. However, in recent years, due to its fast growth in economies and industrialization, environmental issues – especially air quality has raised a broader concern in China. Many cities have been affected by smog. In this article, we will discuss China air quality situation and how it will impact expats relocating to China.

China Air Quality Study

According to a new study of air quality in five major cities by a team of researchers at Peking University, Guanghua School of Management, among Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Shenyang, the most favourable city is Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, next to Hong Kong. The second best is Shanghai. Actually, based on the statistical report, expats relocating to China would want to settle in the Southern area to minimize exposure to polluted air.

The reason why Guangzhou and Shanghai are better is because they are closer to the sea and have more rainfall, according to Mr. Chen Songxi, a statistician at Peking University. He recommends government to cut down emissions.

Beijing has some of the worst pollution problems in China. This is because Beijing is the capital, cultural and economic centre in China. Also, this exciting and crowded city has more than five million motor vehicles along with heavy manufacturing and power plants. Though strong north wind during fall and winter would help clear the air, that still doesn’t address the source of the problem – car emissions, heavy industries, power stations, etc…

In addition, Beijing often experiences sandstorms during Springtime, which can make air quality even worse. The skyline can turn orange due to the sandy weather. Pedestrians often have to wear masks to protect themselves from the dust.

Health Impacts of Smog on Expatriate’s Health

Some expats are refusing work assignments in some Chinese cities because of the high rate of pollution. Here are some health impacts for locals and expats residing in highly polluted cities:

  • Air pollution can impact food safety in China, likely because of smog can inhibit photosynthesis in plants
  • Expats with pre-existing medical conditions can have their medical health impacted by air pollution, especially those with asthma or COPD
  • Children, elderly and children are more susceptible to the impact of pollution
  • Air pollution can irritate your eyes and lungs
  • Decreased life span caused by increased chance of conditions such as bronchitis or even cancer
  • Decreased lung function

If you are concerned, check with you doctor on how you can mitigate the impact of China’s air pollution if you are going to become an expat there.

Will high pollution levels make expats think twice before moving to China? 

One of the largest considerations for expatriates thinking of moving to China is the prevalence of hazardous levels of air pollution in the city centers, especially in Beijing. Recently in both 2016 and early 2017, there have been extremely pollution levels that make going outside hazardous for your health. This is a big concern for expatriates, especially those with families. Some expats will want to choose an expat assignment in a Chinese city with the lowest air pollution levels. A city near the ocean is an obvious choice.

What You Can Do 

The Chinese government has been working hard to solve air pollution issues and is making some progress. In the meantime, expats residing in China would want to look at the following tips in order to stay healthy and safe:

  • Check weather report often, so that you can be more careful when choosing to go outdoors;
  • Purchase green plants for your home or your office help with air purifying;
  • If smog levels are high, wear masks when going outdoors. You can buy masks at convenient store and supermarkets, but make sure you invest in a high quality mask with a high pollution blocking rating;
  • If there is severe air pollution warnings, don’t go outside if possible.
  • Think about moving to a city in China that has less air pollution.

Bring International Health Insurance

Air pollution can severely impact your health if you are living in China, which is another reason to maintain a global medical plan. If you plan to stay in China to work and live for some time, it is strongly suggested that you should obtain quality expat health insurance. With current air pollution situation in China, you will want to protect yourself and your family from health related issues. Although in many major cities there are some satisfactory public hospitals for expats to choose, the method of payment and the quality of medical treatment may be inadequate. For the popular choice of foreign-run hospitals, expats are usually required to make payment in advance before receiving medical treatment. It can be very expensive for emergency treatment and medications in most of the international hospitals. You may want to get out-patient medical option in your health coverage if you are going to live in a city with smog as you may have to visit your doctor more often.

With a comprehensive expat health insurance plan for you and your family, you can be covered for medical expenses, hospitalization and treatments, medicines and emergency evacuations – which is what you need to stay in China. If you are going for a short visit to China, then most people will purchase travel medical insurance for up to one year. Some Chinese embassies require proof of health insurance before issuing visas especially if you are a foreign student. If you are planning to reside in China, it is critical that you purchase international health insurance plan that will not only cover you in China, but globally as well – including back home.

Expat Financial offers several different international health insurance plans for expatriates of any nationality across the world. We also offer excellent service before and after you purchase your international health insurance plan. Our firm is also very experienced in sourcing group plans for multinational firms with expats in China.  If you have questions about our international medical insurance plans or you want to discuss your unique needs and produce a customized expat quote, please contact us or complete the quote form