I’d heard quite a bit during my Polish studies about Cracow’s dangerous pollution levels; during my two previous visits here over the summers, I never noticed anything that seemed necessarily out of the ordinary. Much of the problem, it seems, is from coal burning–much of Poland still uses coal for heating; so during the summer–when the need for heating subsides, so do the pollution levels. Cracow sits in a valley, so even a wind coming into the city doesn’t do anything to remove the smog. It sits and festers. Supposedly Cracow has the third highest smog levels of any city in Europe (the top two being in Bulgaria).
I haven’t felt too too well the past few days, and assumed the mild cold I’ve had has taken a turn for the worse, but I’m beginning to think the smog is the cause. It’s been especially bad the past few days. According to an article in the Krakow Post (http://www.krakowpost.com/article/1915), Cracow’s English language paper, Cracow’s pollution level is about 59 μg/m3. I honestly have no idea what those units of measurement mean, but I gather (from the context) that the higher the number, the worse the pollution. The measurement is supposedly to chart the amount of small-particle pollution in the air (the small particles being the ones that get stuck in our lungs and stay); World Health Organization recommended levels for cities are around 20μg/m3. While this is extremely bad for Europe, it’s worse elsewhere: according to the Krakow Post, Cairo measures around 178μg/m3. And with a bit of research (I’m not entirely sure how accurate my readings are), at the heights of its worst pollution periods, Beijing has come in with short term averages almost to 600 μg/m3. Which is unimaginable to me–I can already see the smog, and on the worst days, smell it on my skin.