Sweden is a green country.

It’s a grey day here in London, and a warning issued that pollution levels are unusually high because of something with the winds. Especially exercising outside is not advised.

Days like this I:
1. Don’t mind spending all day in the lab
2. Get extra annoyed with people in cars. Especially the ones with only a driver.
3. Miss the open spaces and crispy air of Sweden.

Don’t get me wrong, all air on our planet is polluted, also Swedish air. However not to the levels where I’ve ever been advised to stay inside because of it. And if you take a look at this pollution map of Europe, you can see why:

And I just found this disturbing image, whilst looking for the other image:

life expectancy

There are many adverse effects of air pollution (which you may have been able to deduct from the above image, or maybe you already knew). Apart from the more obvious problems for people with asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), it also effects fetuses of pregnant women breathing high levels of pollution.

I think we all have images from our education that we’ll never forget. One of mine is a histological slide of a lung that we were shown in our histology course. In the tissue of the lung there were dark spots with macrophages clustering around them. They were particles inhaled from the air, pollution.
The macrophages recognize these particles as foreign and try to endocytose them, like they do with bacteria. But these particles cannot be broken down by the macrophages. More of the immune system is activated, starting full scale inflammation. But the particles cannot be cleared.
The acidic environment causes thickening of the lung walls (as you’ll learn in physiology, this affects your ability to take up oxygen) and is bad for surrounding cells.

I’m not going in to more detail because well, that would make this post very long. I’ll just give you the short version – chronic inflammation is linked to autoimmune diseases, cancer and infarction, to name a few.

So please, take the bike (good for fitness too!) instead of the car for everyday use. Or the bus or train. If you must drive, carpool. Recycle, especially plastics and metals. Avoid buying plastics if you can. Do what’s in your power, never mind that “the industry will still be polluting more than I can reduce.”

There’s a saying which I don’t know if it’s worldwide or typical Swedish, but translated it means: “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something”.

And it’s in our interest to reduce pollution. It’s not for “our planet”. Quoting a quote: The planet will be just fine. It just won’t be able to habitat humans anymore.

pollution particles
Lungs of a dog who had been living next to a highway. 

By the way, Sweden is one of the most environmental aware countries in the world.

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