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Polish study underlines need for reduced air pollution to protect children’s health

Medical research findings published in Pediatrics journal underline the need for a phase out of the use of coal on health grounds in Poland and elsewhere. The study by a team of Polish and US researchers in Krakow shows a significant negative impact of air pollution on children’s health over a 13 year period.

Krakow and five other Polish cities are among the 10 most polluted cities in the EU. The study on the effects of air quality on children’s health in Krakow represents the first-ever findings linking exposure to air pollution with short-impacts on children’s development. The effects included reports on children’s behaviour and mental development which are of concern as neurobehavioral problems may affect subsequent academic performance and well-being.

HEAL’s coal and health adviser Łukasz Adamkiewicz says “This worrying study in Poland provides new evidence of short-term impacts of air pollution on human health implying that action to reduce harmful emissions into the air will quickly result in improvements in children’s health and well-being,”.

The authors of the study call for a “multifaceted approach that also includes policy interventions to reduce air pollution exposure in urban areas”. Their call echoes those of others in Europe. The European Environmental Agency (EEA) recently brought out new evidence suggesting that air pollution in Europe is causing 10 times more premature deaths than car accidents every year.

On the same day the EEA released its evidence, the Krakow region announced to campaigners from Krakow Smog Alert and to the general public that they had refused to ban coal in domestic heaters in Krakow. Krakow Smog Alert has been engaged in a long public information campaign on the risks to health from coal.

However, the Krakow authorities have recently changed their position and announced a ban on the use of call which will come to life in 2018. HEAL calls for a phase out of coal and hopes to encourage health professionals throughout Europe to spread awareness of the need for cleaner air for better health.

Banning coal could make a huge difference to air pollution and bring about major health benefits. According to HEAL’s report The Unpaid Health bill, How is coal power plants make us sick, the health costs borne by Polish citizens and the government in health costs equal between €3 and €8.2 million per year. This total does not include the health cost associated with coal emissions from household furnaces, which are significant in Krakow. The real amount of external costs from coal combustion in Poland is therefore even higher.

More information on The Unpaid Health Bill here

Download the full report here - EN- DE - POL - RO
Download the Executive Summary here - EN - DE - POL - RO
Download the coal and health postcard here - EN - POL

Last updated on 16 December 2013

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


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