People, Environment

Polish Minister Denies Air Pollution-Death Links

A coal-fired utility plant in Belchatow, PolandA coal-fired utility plant in Belchatow, Poland

Pollution does not shorten people’s lives, a senior Polish government minister said on Friday, downplaying the growing issue of air quality in a country that has been nicknamed the China of Europe.

“Let’s not give in to demagogy; pollution is sometimes higher due to climate issues, but this is definitely not the reason why someone will live shorter,” Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski told a transport conference, Reuters reported.

Poland has the dirtiest air on the continent, activists say, due in part to extensive coal and garbage-burning by households. Climate activists say pollution leads to more than 40,000 premature deaths in Poland a year.

The pro-coal government has been slow to address the issue, with cities trying to deal with the problem individually by closing schools, offering free public transport and asking people to stay inside.

In January, Poland’s Health Minister Konstanty Radziwill said complaints about smog are unconvincing in a country where many smoke.

The World Health Organization says more than 7 million premature deaths occur every year due to air pollution, with 3 million of them due to outdoor air quality.

A smog alarm is raised in Poland when levels of dangerous dust particles hit a concentration of 300 micrograms per cubic meter on average per day. In France, a concentration of 80 micrograms triggers an alert.

The government announced in January plans to monitor the quality of solid fuel and impose standards on household burners.

The Polish minister reiterated on Friday that Poland also aims to have one million electric cars and more than half of municipal buses powered by electricity by 2025.

He also promised cheaper electricity for charging them, saying that between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. power would cost 30% of its regular price.

Tchorzewski said, however, that there was no reason why coal dust, which is bad-quality crushed coal, used by some to heat buildings, should disappear from the market.

Environmental groups sent a complaint to the European Commission last Friday about the levels of air pollution in Poland.

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