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.
Many areas in Poland spent a lot of January under a choking smog, as a result of residential coal health and diesel cars, polluting the air and impacting health. HEAL in Poland has commented on opportunities and dangers of government proposals to improve the situation.
Increasing levels of smog in Poland have triggered a new public debate: the issue has dominated the news, school were forced to cancel outdoor play, and air quality now rivals the weather as a topic of conversation. In response, the governing Law and Justice party (PiS) in Poland has proposed a series of steps to tackle the issue of air pollution in the country.
Amongst other measures, the government has proposed a change in urban planning to protect green zones in cities as well as a set of new regulations and measures to better the quality norms for domestic stoves and boilers. Old-fashioned domestic heating systems, one of the biggest causes of bad air quality in Poland is an issue to be tackled over the next months.
“If what the government proposes is implemented, there will definitely be a good chance for improvement in air quality in Poland. This is just a general list, however, and whether the government’s plan turns out effective or not will depend on details,” said Weronika Piestrzyńska, Health and Energy Programme Manager at HEAL in Poland.
“One problem with the anti-smog campaign is that the current government has retreated from wind power,” she continues, referring to the exclusion of renewable energy sources within the new government plans to improve air quality in the future.
“Obviously, this is the government’s immediate reaction to recent worsening of air quality in Poland. But in the long run, what is missing from the list is moving away from coal as the main energy source in Poland,” Weronika concludes.
HEAL in Poland has recently reached out to the Polish institute of public health and occupational medicine, requesting recommendations for types of face masks to use in the region to protect citizens from air pollution. HEAL has also been in contact with the wider medical community, asking them to take a stance for stronger air quality laws.
- This article is based on the article ‘Poland’s anti-smog battle turns political’, published on 25 January 2017 by Politico. The original article is available via subscription here.
- HEAL in Poland has recently published new infographics to highlight the current situation in Poland, which are available here.