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How to protect yourself against smog? This question is especially important in Poland - a country where, according to a report by the World He alth Organization, there are 33 out of 50 most polluted cities in the European Union. Poor-quality air enters our homes, negatively affecting he alth. Read what methods will allow you to effectively take care of them.

The data of the Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection1are alarming - the normative values ​​for air pollution are exceeded in almost all of Poland. Particularly dangerous issmog, , which is a phenomenon caused by the simultaneous occurrence of unfavorable factors: air pollution caused by human activity, high fog and no wind. The very word "smog" was created by combining two English words:smoke , meaning "smoke" andfog , meaning "fog". The smog contains sulfur dioxide and suspended dust: PM10 dust, PM2.5 dust and their component benzo (a) pyrene and heavy metals. PM10 dust consists of particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers (μm) or less (for comparison: hair diameter is 50-70 micrometers). The particles are so small that they penetrate the lungs and upper respiratory tract. 2.5PM dust consists of even smaller particles - up to 2.5 micrometers (μm) in diameter and is more dangerous to he alth than PM10 dust because it penetrates the bloodstream through the alveoli. Another dangerous substance -benzo (a) pyreneis one of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, it is contained in suspended dust and with it enters the body through the lungs.

Worth knowing

Poland exceeds the emission of benzo (a) pyrene permitted by the WHO as much as 40 times!

Benzo (a) pyrene is one of the most toxic components of smog - fog containing air pollutants. Benzo (a) pyrene accumulates in the body and can cause cancer, impair fertility and harm the unborn child. For benzo (a) pyrene, the admissible concentration is 1 ng / m3 in the national law and EU directive. Poland takes the infamous first place on the list of countries where the concentration of benzo (a) pyrene in the air is the highest. Meanwhile, Poland exceeds the emission of benzo (a) pyrene allowed by the WHO as much as 40 times!

How to protect yourself from smog: threat tohe alth

According to the data of the Provincial Inspectorate for Environmental Protection in Warsaw1 , inhalation of harmful substances contained in smog may lead to serious he alth problems. Sulfur dioxide is irritating to the respiratory tract, causes bronchospasm and lung damage, and reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Moderate exposure to its inhalation causes deterioration of lung function in people with asthma. PM10 dust has a negative effect on the respiratory system, increasing the risk of diseases such asacute bronchitisandchronic obstructive pulmonary disease . PM2.5 dust, as it enters the bloodstream, causesatherosclerosisand inflammation of the blood vessels. According to data from the World He alth Organization, long-term inhalation of PM2.5 dust shortens the life of a European by 8 months, and of a Pole - by 10 months. Benzo (a) pyrene is a carcinogen, damages the circulatory system, respiratory system, adrenal glands and liver. According to the research of scientists from the Collegium Medicum of the Jagiellonian University, the results of which are quoted by the authors of the campaign "We create an atmosphere", benzo (a) pyrene also influences the development of the fetus3 . Exposure to its long-term effects in the fetal period results in the development of inflammation of the upper and lower respiratory tract in infants, and later - in a few-year-olds - a lower IQ.

Worth knowing

Air pollution sources

According to the report of the Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection for 2015, air pollution in Poland is caused by heating houses with solid fuel-fired stoves, coal, wood or garbage. This is called low emission, i.e. all pollutants from heating houses - it causes the presence of 83.3 percent of PM10 dust in the air. Another reason is car communication - 7.4 percent of PM10 is present, but only 7 percent of the dust produced by cars is so-called. emissions from the pipe - over a dozen percent causes wear of tires and brake pads, and as much as 80 percent so-called secondary dusting, i.e. the picking up of dust deposited on the road surface by car traffic. Likewise, PM2.5 - the main cause of its presence in the air is outside industry - 50 percent, 18 percent road transport, and 10 percent energy production.

How to protect yourself from smog: a proper diet

Scientists more and more often point out that a proper diet can protect us from the effects of inhaling harmful substances contained in smog. Some ingredients found in food make the body more resistant.

Omega-3 fatty acidsreduce the effectsthe effects of polluted air on the body, especially the circulatory system. Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh in their work "Nutritional Solutions to Reduce Risks of Negative He alth Impacts of Air Pollution"4cite the results of research conducted around the world on the relationship between a he althy diet and the effects of polluted air on the body . And so, in Mexico, 50 residents of a nursing home, exposed to inhalation of PM2.5 dust inside the center, were supplemented with omega-3 acids for six months. Even before supplementation, scientists spent a month studying the relationship between inhalation of dust by seniors and its impact on their excessively high HRV (sinus rhythm variability). It turned out that taking omega-3 acid (in the form of 2 g of fish oil per day) reduces PM2.5-related HRV by 54 percent, and also reduces the effects ofoxidative stress , a natural disorder in the body's balance between free radicals and antioxidants. Omega-3 fatty acids are found, in addition to fish oil, in nuts,almonds ,butter ,rapeseed oil,flax seedsandpumpkin seeds . Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh also indicate that vitamins B6 and B12 also have the same properties. The sources ofvitamin B6are: buckwheat, chicken, turkey, red pepper and potatoes, whilevitamin B12is found in: meat, fish, milk, eggs, cold cuts, cheese.

Particulate matter, which is a component of smog, increases the level of oxidative stress, thus causing dysfunctions of the autonomic system, accelerated development and destabilization of atherosclerotic plaque, increased blood viscosity, increasing hypertension and cardiac arrhythmias. Research conducted in Brazil on a group of 80 people of different genders and ages proves thatvitamin Candvitamin Esupplementation can minimize these symptoms. Intake of vitamin C in a daily dose of 500 mg and vitamin E in a daily dose of 800 mg for 6 months reduced the level of oxidative stress by 51 percent in the subjects who were directly - that is, outside - exposed to PM2.5 and PM10, and by 36 percent in people inhaling the dust that got into the interior of buildings. Moreover, vitamin C and vitamin E supplementation improves asthma-related parameters in children who have been exposed to PM10 dust. Vitamin C also prevents DNA damage from exposure to particulate matter. The sources of vitamin C are: rosehip, sea buckthorn, black currant, parsley, red pepper and Brussels sprouts, and vitamin E - sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts and almonds.

The authors of "Nutritional Solutions to Reduce Risks of Negative He alth Impacts of Air Pollution" also point out that thanks to their antioxidant properties, vitamin E andcurcumin , contained in turmeric, reduce oxidative stress caused by benzo (a) pyrene and the DNA damage it causes.

As reported by the World He alth Organization5(WHO), diesel exhaust fumes can cause cancer, especially lung cancer, as well as inflammation of the respiratory tract, allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease . Scientists from the University of California show that to prevent these diseases, you should consumebroccoli . All because of the sulforaphane contained in them - a powerful antioxidant that stimulates detoxifying enzymes to eliminate harmful substances from the body. Most sulforaphane is found in fresh, raw broccoli, but unfortunately not in vegetables cooked for too long, as these processes destroy myrosinase, the enzyme necessary to produce sulforaphane. Therefore, it is best to scald your vegetables so that they retain, albeit to a lesser extent, their ability to produce this antioxidant. In addition to broccoli, its source (raw, not cooked) is alsoBrussels sproutsandcabbage .

This will be useful to you

How to check the current state of air pollution?

Current measurement data can be found on the website of the Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection. The Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection has also launched an application for mobile phones "Air quality in Poland", which provides up-to-date information on pollutant concentrations and up-to-date measurement results.

How to protect yourself from smog: anti-smog masks

Although anti-smog masks are still associated primarily with the Japanese and Chinese who use them very often, they are also becoming more and more popular in Poland. Mainly in Krakow, the city ranked 3rd most polluted in Europe in the infamous ranking of the European Environmental Protection Agency. In the city of Krak, the level of air pollutants exceeds the norm by as much as 600 percent. The anti-smog masks have special filters to protect against the ingress of dust. Unfortunately, not all of them will be effective, so when buying a product, it is worth making sure that it will not allow PM2.5 dust containing very small particles and getting into not only the lungs but also the blood.

Filters should be replaced every two weeks, and sometimes before this date - whenever their color changes - from white to gray. A good idea, especially when walking or running, will be to choose a mask with a layer of activated carbon,which will protect against gas pollution. Masks cost from 100 to 300 PLN, plus about 100 PLN for 10 filters. According to the manufacturers, the masks protect against dust in 95 percent, according to experts, to a lesser extent.

How to protect yourself from smog: air purifiers

Unfortunately, smog from the outside seeps through open / leaky windows, a leaky roof. In Krakow, in 2014, activists from the Krakow Smog Alert conducted research on the level of air pollution in homes. Two devices measuring the presence of PM2.5 and PM10 dusts were placed outside the buildings, and two - inside. It turned out that the level of harmful substances present in the apartments was four times higher than it should be, despite the tightly closed windows. To these pollutants, all the toxins produced by detergents, building materials, and carpets (the so-called sick building syndrome) should be added.

Air quality in homes can be improved with the use of purifiers that can cope not only with dust from the outside, but also those "home" - microorganisms (bacteria and viruses), pollen, fungi, mold, dust, mites. The purifiers suck in polluted air, pass it through various filters and finally blow out the purified air. There are three types of filters: initial - to remove hair or dust, main - to deal with smaller pollutants, such as pollen and mold spores, and anti-odor, to get rid of, for example, the smell of tobacco smoke. Each air purifier has a main filter, filters: pre-filter and anti-odor are additional options.

To deal with external contamination (PM2.5 and PM10 particulates), you need to choose a device withHEPA filteras they can trap particles of such a small diameter. On the other hand, carbon filter purifiers will work well in removing gaseous pollutants, e.g. sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. They also remove odors, e.g. of tobacco smoke, organic waste and odors of chemical origin. In turn, water purifiers, apart from cleaning, also moisturize the rooms.Purifiers with a UV lamppermanently damage the cell nuclei of harmful microorganisms, eliminating mites, bacteria and viruses.Plasma devicesclean, moisturize and ionize the air.Purifiers with an ionizeralso have the ability to replenish the deficiency of negative ions, ensuring their balance with positive ions, positively influencing the functioning of the body. Air purifiers are 85 to 99 percent effective at removing contaminants - depending on the equipment model itype of filter used.

Air purifiers can be connected to a power source, but when using them, remember not to place them closer than 15 cm to other electrical appliances or in wet rooms. The purifier works more effectively when the windows and doors are closed in the room, but remember that the device is not a substitute for ventilation. Air purifiers cost from a thousand to several thousand zlotys.

How to protect yourself from smog: air-purifying plants

How to protect yourself from air pollution? Plants are the solution - as a result of photosynthesis, they take carbon dioxide from the air, giving back life-giving oxygen. They also neutralize sulfur dioxide and heavy metals - copper, zinc, cadmium, lead. Trees also capture dust and soot particles as well as gaseous substances from the air. For the same reason, it is recommended to use a large number of lawns, vines, and gardens on the roofs of buildings in the urban space.

Plants minimize not only air pollution outside buildings, but also those that often appear in the closed spaces of our homes.

Potted plants filter out substances such as: formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, ammonia, toluene

As early as 1989, NASA in its report "Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement" published a list of plants that are the most effective in cleaning the air.

Check it out here:>>Air-purifying plants: NASA list <<


1. The CIEP report can be downloaded from the website:

2. Access to the publication on the website: [accessed on 18.12.2017]

3. Press materials of the campaign "We create the atmosphere" available on the website: [accessed on 18.12.2017]

4. Access to publications on the website: [accessed on 18/12/2017]

5. Access to publications on the website: [accessed on 18/12/2017]

About the authorAnna SierantEditor in charge of the Psychology and Beauty sections, as well as the main page of As a journalist, she cooperated, among others. with "Wysokie Obcasy", the websites: and, the quarterly "G'RLS Room". She also co-founded the online magazine "PudOWY Róż". He runs a blog jakdzż

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