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EU takes Poland to court over air quality

Poland has one of the worst air quality in the EU with more than 40,000 citizens dying prematurely due to high concentrations of particular matter and other pollutants. On 10 December, the EU Commission referred Poland to the European Court of Justice over lack of action for cleaner air.

For a long time the EU Commission has been analysing air quality in Poland and if the country keeps to EU air quality standards (as set in the EU law on ambient air quality). Yet, unfortunately in Poland, levels of air pollutants have constantly been exceeded. The daily limit value of airborne particles has been exceeded in 35 out of 46 air quality zones for the last five years, and the annual value of PM10 concentration has been exceeded in nine zones. Exceeded concentrations of PM10, PM2.5 and benzo(a)pyrene are linked to asthma, COPD, cancer, strokes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Due to these regular exceedances, the EU Commission sent Poland a request in February 2015 to provide information on national activities taken to improve air quality. After analysing the response from the Polish government and taking into consideration that the air quality still remains poor, with serious smog episodes, the EU decided to take Poland to court in December.

Although Poland has recently introduces an anti-smog bill and a National Air Protection Plan, the EU Commission considers that the legislative and administrative measures taken so far are insufficient to reduce air pollution and comply with EU laws.

Poland remains in first place as the most polluted country in the EU, and it may now incur a huge fine for exceeding levels of PM in the air.

It is important to remember that a million EUR fine is not the only money Poland could lose. It is already losing an estimated 480 billion PLN (40 - 120 million EUR) in external health costs of disease and premature deaths caused by air pollution. The case against Poland should be treated seriously and should trigger decisive, problem-solving action of the Polish government.

This news has been widely covered in the Polish media:

Originally posted on 17 December 2015

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