Last updated on Jan 18th, 2021 at 08:47 am

Scientists from Helmholtz Zentrum München (German Research Centre for Environmental Health) led an investigation into the effects of air pollution on more than 100 000 participants in 11 population groups in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Germany.

Thereâ??s something in the air

Research participants were followed for incidenceof coronary events for an average period of 11,5 years. During the study period, a total of 5 157 individuals suffered a heart attack or unstable angina pectoris.

Participantsâ?? heart events were compared to concentrations of air pollution, specially researchers measured the particulate matter with a diameter less than 10 micrometres (PM10), inhalable particles smaller than 2,5 micrometres (PM2,5), and nitrogen oxides (NOx) at the residence location.

The results show that high particulate matter concentration in the air at the residence location may increase the risk for an acute coronary event.

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“Our results show that exposure to particulate matter poses a significant health risk – and is an even greater risk than previously thought,” says Professor Peters, lead author of the study. “The adverse health effects that occurred at exposure levels below the current specified limits are particularly alarming. The study therefore supports the demands to lower these limits.”

How to protect yourself from air pollution

1. Start gardening

A study published in the American Chemical Society showed that trees and plants in cities reduce levels of two of the most worrisome air pollutants, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and microscopic particulate matter (PM), eight times more than previously believed!

2. Bring plants into your home

When researcher Kamal Meattle had a 70% decrease in lung capacity due to the polluted air in New Delhi, he decided to try using indoor air purifying plants and technology to purify the air in his offices. Meattleâ??s health improved and a study found that people occupying his building for 10 hours had a reduction in respiratory problems by 34%, while lung impairment decreased by 12%.

Plants that effectively purify indoor air include Mother-in-lawâ??s tongue, Chrysanthemum, Areca Palm, Rubber Plant, Spider plant, Peace lilly and English Ivy.

3. Plan weekend walks in the woods

Get out of the city and enjoy regular walks in nature.

“When we walk in a forest or park, our levels of white blood cells increase. It also lowers our pulse rate, blood pressure and level of the stress hormone cortisol,” explains Dr. Aaron Michelfelder, professor of family medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Itâ??s not only a great way to distress, research out of Japan shows that walking in the woods even plays a role in fighting cancer!

This is because plants emit phytoncides, a chemical called that protects them from rotting and attack by insects, and when we breathe this in, there is an increase in the level of “natural killer” cells, which are part of a the human immune response to cancer.

Sources: American Chemical Society, Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen – German Research Centre for Environmental Health and Loyola University Health System via ScienceDaily and TedTalks

Recommended reading: Gardens are good for your mental health

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.