Fewer children suffer from asthma as Poland tackles air pollution, says expert

In this week’s Net Hero Podcast, we spoke to Anna Dworakowska, co-founder of advocacy group, Polish Smog Alert who told us that good legislation is vital for decarbonising

Big Zero Report 2023

Nearly 300,000 people die every year in the EU from air pollution.

This is what Anna Dworakowska, co-founder of advocacy group, Polish Smog Alert told us in this week’s Net Hero Podcast.

‘The main contributor in Poland is the household sector. So the burning of coal and wood in sometimes very polluting boilers, we call them smokers because they emit a lot of smoke.

‘If you walk through little villages or towns, you can see every other house spewing crazy amounts of smoke.

‘So, burning of coal and wood in households is responsible for 80% of particulate matter emissions.’

Whereas heating in houses in the main problem in towns and villages, diesel vehicles and traffic plague cities like Krakow.

‘Diesel vehicles are a problem in the cities and it is being addressed. Krakow voted as the first in Poland for low emission zone. It’s not as ambitious as in London but it is an important piece of legislation and now Warsaw is doing the same.’

Anna told us that the situation is improving, albeit slowly.

‘One of Krakow’s doctors has been following the health of children. She is focusing on asthma cases and it turns out that the incidence of asthma symptoms has decreased from 22%, which is one-fourth of Krakow’s children, to 9% in ten years.

‘When we started the campaign, we would experience around 120 smog days a year, which means four months a year [and] the air was extremely polluted. Right now this goes down to 30 days. So one month a year.’

But there is still a long way to go.

‘I’ve just looked into statistics of single family houses in Poland and we can see that 2 million smokers are still active in these houses. Poland still has quite high levels of PM2.5 and PM10 (particulate matter). So dust emissions are still high.

‘Benzo a pyrene emissions, which is another carcinogenic pollutant, is the highest in Europe. They’re lower than ten years ago but still the highest.’

Anna notes of three important elements in paving a way to clean air – legislation, funding and awareness.

She said: ‘We look at the energy transformation of polish houses in three very important [ways]. So the first one is good legislation, we need to ban certain types of heating or certain types of appliances to enter the market or to be used in houses. And right now, 90% of Poland is covered by legislation which bans or will ban the use of these smokers.

‘The second important element are financial programmes. These are being funded by the Polish government from the state tax but also EU funding.

‘And the third is, making people aware of why all these things have to happen.’

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