Today I’m talking about environmental health in the English language. The environment and health, they seem like they go together well, don’t they? But there are some less desirable connections between them and moving house that much about. You can learn more by listening to the podcast today.
I will give you some great listening practice in this English lesson. I’ll be talking about two topics that are close to my heart—the environment, and health. So for anyone who’s taking an English language test soon, this podcast will include some great vocabulary on topical subjects that you might need in the exam.
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For everyone else, this is just an interesting insight into the language used when moving house, the environment and health issues in the UK.
There's so much pollution in the air now that if it weren't for our lungs there'd be no place to put it all.
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- Criterion: A rule or standard to judge something.
- Lungs: Organs in our chest that help us breathe.
- Aerosol: Tiny liquid or solid particles floating in the air.
- Pollution: Harmful things in the air, water, or land.
- Fresh: New or clean, not old or used.
- Minerals: Hard substances from the earth, like salt or gold.
- Particulate: Tiny solid pieces in the air.
- Pollute: To make air, water, or land dirty and unsafe.
Hi there. Today I'm going to give you some really good English language listening practice. I'm going to talk about two connected topics that are close to my heart - the environment, and health. So for any of you who might be about to take an English language test, this podcast will include some really good vocabulary on topical subjects that you might need to know.
Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.
So I'm going to talk today in this podcast about a connection between environment and health, which is an interesting one, and which it's probably good to know about anyway. So this is a podcast, which I hope will be interesting in its own right, as well as teaching you English and new vocabulary.
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So recently my elder sister has been looking to move house. She lives in a lovely house in the northwest of England on the West Pennine Moores. The Pennines, P E N N I N E S, they're a series of mountains that run up the middle of northern England, rather like a backbone, rather like vertebrae.
So my sister lives in a very rural area. 'Rural', R U R A L. It's quite hard to pronounce, and 'rural' means in the countryside, not in a city.
My sister and her husband want to move south to be nearer to their families. They will therefore be coming to live nearer to me too. So instead of it taking me five or six hours of driving to get to them, it will be more like three. So I'm really pleased about that, even though I'm sad not to be visiting where they currently live, any more.
But one of my sister's criteria for her new house concerns air pollution. Vocabulary here? 'Criteria', C R I T E R I A. That's the plural, and 'criterion' is the singular of that word, C R I T E R I O N. A 'criterion' is a measurement, a standard by which we measure something. So when you look for a new house, you will have a number of 'criteria' to bear in mind.
So as I say, air pollution is one that seems close to my sister's heart at the moment. That means it's important to her.
So 'air pollution'. The word 'air', A I R - you probably know that word. It's what we breathe in. The 'air' is all around us. And 'pollution', P O L L U T I O N. And the verb 'to pollute' P O L L U T E. We might also talk about 'pollutants', P O L L U T A N T S. All of that is when there are bad chemicals in the air.
So 'pollution' means bad air, air that you don't want to breathe because it is laden with chemicals and toxic materials that you don't want to breathe. And of course you can pollute water and you can pollute ground, and you can pollute air. You can pollute the sea as well.
So pollution means substances that are harmful to us or that are harmful to nature, harmful to animals and plants.
So my sister is bearing this in mind as one of her criteria for where she lives next. Where she lives high up on the West Pennine Moors, the air is good, the quality of the air is good, and the pollution level is not high. And she's making as one of her criteria for her new house that she doesn't want to live in an area where pollution is any worse than where she currently lives.
Where she lives, the air is fresh. F R E S H, I can vouch for that! That's one word for it. 'Fresh' meaning it's a bit cold some of the time and it's quite windy, but it's good air.
So how does my sister know what the level of pollution is for a particular address in the UK, for a particular location? How can she know this with any accuracy? Well, what she's been using is a World Health Organization website.
A photograph of English Pennines. Health and Environment: English Listening Practice With Sentences, Phrases and Questions.
This website gives the level of air pollution for very specific locations. So in the UK you can use your postcode. That's the same as a 'zip code' in the US and the number of your house. So it is as detailed as that. It's down to the actual property that you live in.
So this website is well worth looking at. The link is in the transcript on our website at adeptenglish.com, so you can find that link for yourself, and I encourage you to have a look.
Or if you put into your search engine, so that's Google or Firefox or Safari, if you put in W H O Air Quality Database, you'll find this website.
So you put in your address or your postcode or the equivalent in your country, and you find the results for where you live. And some of it is quite shocking. It shocks us. It's not the sort of information that we expected. Certainly thousands of people in the UK live in areas where the level of air pollution is way beyond what's considered safe by the World Health Organization.
And of course this is true for many people all across the world. Pollution levels tend to be worse in cities. So in the UK, Birmingham, London, Manchester, those are the places where the pollution is highest. But of course, there are cities all around the world which have problems with levels of pollution. The air is not good air.
And living with pollution, air pollution particularly affects your health. That's the crossover. That's the connection.
So what type of pollution are we talking about in this W H O database?
Well, they collect information on two substances, two pollutants in the air. The first one is what they call 'particulate matter', so that's P A R T I C U L A T E. 'Particulate', or they call 'particulate matter', 'PM' for short. It also means Prime Minister, of course, in UK English! So often in the newspapers and online you'll hear this substance 'particulate matter' referred to.
It's also called 'particulates', that's in common usage particulates. And on this W H O website, in the FAQs or Frequently Asked Questions, it goes through in some detail what's being measured here and what particulates are.
So it says, 'Particulates are composed of sulfate, nitrates, secondary organic aerosols, sea salt, black carbon, mineral dust and water.' So 'sulfates' and 'nitrates' are particular chemicals. ' Secondary organic aerosols', so that's bits in the air that come from actual aerosol spray. So 'aerosol', A E R O S O L. Psssssssss. If you spray that on your body, you spray perfume or you spray cleaning products indoors, often they come in the form of an aerosol. So little bits of substance and matter that come from aerosols also make up particulates. Of course, there's carbon in there. C A R B O N. The word 'minerals' just is a common usage word for various chemicals that hang around in our environment. And water. So particulates are a mixture of different chemicals.
The W H O website makes the point that particulates affect human health more than any other pollutant. So particulates are the worst pollutant for human health.
Where do particulates come from? Well, wherever fossil fuels are burnt or wood is burnt as well, that creates particulates. So it could be from houses where people burn solid fuels to keep warm, could be from power stations that are fired by fossil fuels. But a lot of it comes from our car engines, particularly diesel engines create a lot of particulates in the air. So cars, buses, vans, planes, trains all create particulates, particularly the ones that run on diesel ,like our trains and buses do.
A few years ago, the UK government was encouraging people to own diesel cars. It was believed because the carbon dioxide emissions were less, the CO2 was less from diesel engines, that this was a good thing. And there were incentives in the form of it costing less to tax your car, to tax your vehicle. Vehicle tax was less for diesel engines than petrol. So for a while I had a diesel car.
Until, of course, people's health started to suffer and the government did rather a U-turn. They went 180 in the other direction because people were suffering more and more health problems because of the rise in diesel ownership.
So it might have been good for CO2 le levels, but it wasn't good for particulates.
What is it that particulates do to our health?
Well, the main problem is that these particles or particulates are so tiny, they actually penetrate our lungs. So our 'lungs', L U N G S, that's what you use to breathe with. Pretty important to us staying alive and staying healthy. The particulates get into our lungs and can't get out. And some of the tiny particulates actually penetrate beyond the lung and can be found in the bloodstream, which is even more dangerous for your health.
They get into what's known as our cardiovascular system. So 'cardio' means 'heart', and 'vascular' means our system of veins where our blood runs through the body.
So particulates cause lung diseases like lung cancer, asthma, and diseases of the heart and the cardiovascular system. So things like heart attacks and strokes. A heart attack is when the heart stops, of course. And these illnesses cause many deaths every year. So particulates are very, very bad for us.
The other pollutant measured on the W H O website is NO2 or nitrogen dioxide. That's the stuff we're worried about for global warming too. But it's also a bad pollutant for human health. Again, that comes from burning fossil fuels and from running our cars and different vehicles. High nitrogen dioxide readings happen, particularly where there's a lot of cars, a lot of traffic.
And the effects on human health?
Well, NO2 mainly affects the lungs. It affects what's known as the 'respiratory system', our 'breathing system'. So asthma and lung-related diseases are made worse by NO2. And you can see it statistically, you can see it in numbers. In areas where the volumes of traffic are higher, where there's more nitrogen dioxide, there are more admissions to hospital with respiratory problems, with lung problems and breathing problems. So aside from the issue of global warming, there are plenty of reasons to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
And depending upon where you live, that determines how much of an effect on your health this is having. When I used the W H O website to check out a few different addresses in the UK where friends and family live, it was of course my elder daughter who lives in East London, for whose property, for whose house, the statistics were the worst. She's the person in my family who lives with the most air pollution, quite predictively in the middle of London.
I don't imagine she'll stay in London all her life, but of course it can be harmful to your health in the short term. And if you live your whole life in a city like London, then presumably you are at even more risk.
So thank you to my sister for making me aware of this, and I pass on this information to you as well so that you can become more aware, if you choose to, of the possible impact of air pollution on your health. And I hope that this podcast has given you some good English practice, some good vocabulary and you've learned something at the same time. That's what we hope to achieve in our podcasts.
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Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
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