Poland air pollution: the red spot on the map of Europe

Located at the geographical and cultural center of Europe, Poland is a great place to live or visit. However, as heating season approaches again, a lot of Poland’s cities change beyond recognition. The air is heavy, breathing becomes difficult, and the whole city is often covered in a thick haze. You can’t just open the window and breathe fresh, clean air. Late in the evening it often smells like burning tires outside. Cheking air quality outdoor to make sure that it is safe to leave the house became first thing to do in the morning. What once was thought to be the problem of low-income countries somewhere in Africa or Asia, now sadly became the everyday problem for many cities in Poland in period from October to April.

According to the European Environment Agency’s latest estimates, Poland has one of the most dangerous levels of air pollution in the EU. The EEA estimated that almost 45,000 Poles died prematurely due to particulate pollution in 2014, it’s the third highest mortality rate in the EU.

The WHO has found that the safest dosage of PM2.5 in a 24-hour time period is approximately 25 micrograms per cubic meter. The average 24-hour mean for PM2.5 established by the EU is 50 μg/m3. To announce the alarm in Poland, the midday standard must exceed 300 μg/m3. To compare, in Paris officials declare a “smog alarm” at 80 micrograms per cubic meter.

The air qual­ity mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions in Lublin reg­u­larly mea­sure levels of PM2.5 that are far beyond the safe limits established by WHO and EU, despite the fact that this city is far from Poland’s worst city when it comes to air quality. On Monday, November 6, PM2.5 concentration in Lublin reached enormous 252 μg/m3.

Source: aqicn.org

When PM2.5 level gets higher than 150μg/m3, according to Chinese government, it is recommended to wear a mask. This scale is allowing 6 times more PM2.5 ug/m3 exposure in a 24-hour period than is recommended for healthy standards set by the WHO. But you won’t see anybody in Lublin wearing a mask. Children are playing with a ball on the streets, parents are walking with newborn babies outside. Seems nobody cares about that awful smell, and about all harmful effects of air pollution on our health (especially severe to young children).

Poland regularly surpasses EU limits on air pollution owing to a heavy reliance on coal and a lack of government action on clean technology.  Coal is not only the main energy source in the country, generating around 90% of its electricity needs,  but it’s also still used, along with other cheap materials including trash like plastic bags and bottles, to heat homes in the winter — hence the worsening smog when temperatures drop.

If we go by the statistics, the WHO’s reported last year that 33 out of 50 the most polluted cities in the Europe are located in Poland.

Source: WHO

Moreover, recently Poland was among two countries of EU (accompanied only by Greece) that has ignored EU calls to quickly walk away from coal as an energy source in bid to meet Paris pledges, and to ban investing in building new coal-fired plants after 2020. While many European energy companies look for ways to increase their investment in renewable energy sources, Poland is swimming against the tide, investing billions in additional coal-fired capacity, modernizing their existing coal-fired power plants and building new ones. At least four new coal-fired plants are expected to come on line by 2019, and Poland’s coal-fired power generation is predicted to rise from 130 TWh in 2017 to 142 TWh in 2026.

So, why is Poland reluctant to act? Probably because selling coal to private households, and not setting long-term supply contracts with energy companies, brings more profit for local troubled coal mines. The retail market is big, 30% of energy that heats Polish homes comes from domestic coal burning, which is 10 times more than in other European countries. In rural areas, where central heating is not available, 76% of homes are heated by burning coal, wood, and rubish.

Despite increasing pressure from the EU and many environmental groups to curb its reliance on coal, Poland has done almost nothing to encourage the development of renewable energy, reduce used car imports, rationalise precaution levels or protect green areas.

While Polish authorities refuse to look for potential solutions to help combat and reduce this “health crisis”, you should remember that it is essential to take initial steps by yourself to minimize your exposure to air pollution and protect your health. Most importantly is to be aware of the current air pollution situation, so get into the habit of verifying the air quality in your region and avoid spending much time outside on bad air days. Check indoor air to make sure it meet recommended safe air quality levels, remember to keep your house clean, get more houseplants, make your living area smoke free, on days with poor air quality keep the windows closed and use air purifiers for cleaning the air inside your home.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *