Health groups call on the leaders of the Western Balkan countries to harmonize national air quality standards with the World Health Organization Global air quality guidelines. Health experts should be actively involved in these decision-making processes to ensure the timely integration of public health measures into environmental policies. Compliance with WHO recommendations brings multiple benefits – reduced incidence of chronic diseases and premature deaths, reduced overall health costs and, most importantly, better health and higher productivity of people.
Despite Polish government’s efforts to underestimate the problem of air pollution in the country, HEAL Poland continues to raise awareness and involve medical community into the fight for cleaner air.
Poland remains the most polluted country of the European Union when it comes to air quality. Official WHO reports estimate that 33 out of the 50 dirtiest cities in Europe are located in Poland, and the total cost of Polish air pollution reaches up to 102 billion US dollars every year.
Polish citizens all around the country are recognising the problem at hand, and have started forming movements to send out so-called “smog alerts”. However, despite huge efforts from the NGO community to raise awareness on air pollution and its consequences for public health in Poland, the government still does not recognise the problem as clearly as it should. This year has started with an infamous statement from the Polish Health Minister, saying that “air pollution problem in Poland is theoretical”. This statement was followed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, stating “we cannot afford to be a backward country with clean air”.
The government project for introducing standards for coal stoves and boilers as well as a set quality for fossil fuels, which initially was planned for the first quarter of 2017, has already been delayed.
With air pollution being worsened continuously by so-called low stack emissions from transportation and energy production, it can be difficult to keep a positive mind about the situation in Poland. After all, over 80% of Polish energy still comes from coal burning. This is why HEAL Poland continues to deliver facts and data on the health impacts of air pollution, engaging health experts and medical doctors into the debate on the need for energy transformation.
Examples of awareness-raising activities of HEAL Poland
In the past month, representatives of HEAL Poland took part in numerous events, conferences and meetings. Examples include the organisation of a workshop for employees of the Environmental Protection Bank, and the delivery of a speech at a press conference organised by other Polish NGOs to fasten the introduction of an anti-smog bill in the Polish Masovia region.
HEAL Poland also became an official partner of the “City is ours” NGO in Warsaw campaign, a coalition focused on the dangers to children’ health related to air pollution.
Furthermore, the HEAL Poland team is currently doing extensive work on the launch of the global ‘Unmask My City’ campaign, which aims to strengthen the medical community voice in the debate on improving air quality in Poland. The Polish launch of this special campaign will take place on 13 May, during a conference at Warsaw Medical University.
Find out more about HEAL Poland