A Breath of Fresh Air
By Paula Martins, in The Portugal News · 16-10-2020 01:00:00
While doctors are unable to pinpoint the exact medical reasons behind improved breathing in the Algarve, anecdotal cases, historical precedence and scientific air quality levels show that the Algarve really is a breath of fresh air for many.
The Algarve has great levels of air quality, rich in oxygen and low in pollution, and time spent in the south of Portugal can potentially help improve health, particularly relating to respiratory health.
Ilse Van Parys had been visiting the Algarve for many years for holidays and she fell in love with the region. The environment, the air quality, and the healthy lifestyle, were some of the ingredients that made her family then move to the Algarve where they decided to build a house. Ilse Van Parys is from Belgium, just like Sigurd Versailles, a Belgian man with ALS Disease, the same disease that affected Stephen Hawking. Sigurd Versailles who came to the south of Portugal to improve his quality of life also.
Versailles had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. One of the consequences of his loss of capacity was lung problems. His respiratory capacity was at about 25 percent and when he was in Belgium he needed a ventilator to help him breathe. However, when he came to Portugal he didn’t need to use a machine, only at night when sleeping, which was something that made a huge difference to his life said Ilse Van Parys, his neighbour.
“Over time he could do less and less, in the end he couldn’t do many small and simple things, the house had to be adapted to his needs. However the doctors were amazed at his level of health while he was in the Algarve and although they were unable to pinpoint or scientifically prove why his health was better in the Algarve, they could not deny the improvements,” she said.
“After spending four or seven weeks in Belgium, his condition was not so good”, she said. And when he returned from Portugal to Belgium, doctors were very surprised to see significant improvements in his health. “Despite not being able to scientifically prove it, the results were clear to see,” she confirmed.
In her own family she also sees the differences: “Whenever the children return to Belgium their health always differs slightly, for example, it’s easier to get a cold”. Furthermore, her mother has asthma and they soon began to realise that “whenever she is in the Algarve she can breathe better”.
According Amilcar Martins, a retired doctor from São Martinho do Porto, Portugal, that also chose the Algarve to live in with his wife and children a few years ago: “The atmosphere here is beneficial because there is much less pollution than in other regions”. The doctor gave an example: “Even in the Algarve, close to the ocean we can breathe better than in the middle of the city”.
During the year, the air quality levels do not always remain the same. According to the doctor: “In the drier periods of the year, respiratory disease is better tolerated than during periods of humidity”.
Air Quality data
In the south of Portugal, data from Qualar – a Portuguese organisation that provides information about air quality in the national territory, found that at the time of going to press, the air quality data was very positive throughout the Algarve, classified as either “Very Good” or “Good” across the region.
In the Algarve, more specifically in Albufeira, at the Malpique Station, 51 µg / m3 of O3 (ozone) were recorded, also classified as “Very good” by Qualar, while the level of NO2, (Nitrogen dioxide), Albufeira was considered “very good” for presenting 0 µg / m3, which is a gas considered to be very toxic to the lungs, was not registered in Albufeira according to the latest data.
Given this data, the president of the Algarve Tourism Region, João Fernandes, highlights the historical relationship of the healthy lifestyle of the Algarve with the past, recalling the Algarve tradition of health tourism. João Fernandes told The Portugal News: “More than a century ago, in 1918, the old São Brás de Alportel Sanatorium treated patients with tuberculosis through exposure to clean and open air, believing that the Algarve’s mountain range provided the best environment for patients to get away from the polluted air from urban centres. Already back then, the Algarve was one of the main centres for the treatment of respiratory diseases in Portugal and received people from all over the country in search of clean air for therapeutic purposes”, he explained.
A century later, João Fernandes points out that “the air quality in the Algarve is still rated as “very good” and “good” most days of the year, according to the indicators provided by the QUALAR monitoring network stations, which is jointly managed by the Portuguese Environment Agency and CCDR Algarve”, he clarified.
“We are fortunate to live in a destination where the sources of emission of atmospheric pollutants are practically nonexistent, both through industry and from natural sources, which makes the Algarve a destination with great potential to be a destination for health and well-being”, said João Fernandes who concluded by stating that these factors appear to be immediately perceived by foreigners who visit the region, helping to influence the choice of the Algarve as a residential destination for those looking for a healthy quality of life.