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Deadly smog puts lives of 90,000 Poles at risk

Deadly smog puts lives of 90,000 Poles at risk

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Jakub TyszkowskiJakub Tyszkowski,16.02.2024 16:00

EU officials are uncertain about when to implement new air quality standards. The ClientEarth Prawnicy dla Ziemi foundation has cautioned that delays in enforcing these regulations could lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of Polish people.

The issue of smog is a recurring problem that seems to come back every year. This is a matter of great concern, given its severe consequences for human health. According to data reported by The Guardian, polluted air contributes to nearly 400,000 deaths each year in Europe. Shockingly, only 2% of Europe's population resides in regions where dust levels are within the normal range.

The most dangerous particulate matter for humans is PM2.5, which consists of atmospheric aerosols with a maximum diameter of 2.5 micrometres and can penetrate directly into the bloodstream. They contribute to the aggravation of asthma, lung, throat and larynx cancer, atherosclerosis, cardiac arrhythmias, and respiratory problems in newborns, among other health issues.

In addition to PM2.5, PM10 is also dangerous to health. It is a dust mixture consisting of particles with a diameter of no more than 10 micrometres. This dust contains carcinogenic heavy metals such as benzopyrenes, furans, and dioxins. It affects the respiratory system and causes coughing attacks, bronchitis, wheezing, and an increased risk of heart attacks.

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Smog kills. WHO wants radical changes

The World Health Organization (WHO) proposes more stringent annual average levels for PM2.5 compared to the existing EU regulations. Specifically, it advises that daily concentrations of PM2.5 should not surpass 15 micrometres per cubic meter (µg/m³). In contrast, the daily standard for PM10 concentrations is established at 45 µg/m³.

According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution is harmful to every organ and every tissue of the body

- says Professor Tadeusz Zielonka in the "It’s time to de-smog" campaign.

Ambient Air Quality Directive

As per bizblog.spidersweb.pl, the Polish criteria are half as stringent as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. The Ambient Air Quality Directive (AAQD) holds promise for enhancing the situation. Its objective is to elevate air quality standards to align with those endorsed by the WHO. Efforts to implement this directive are currently underway at the EU level.

Within the EU, authorities are engaged in a debate regarding the timeline for harmonising EU air quality standards with WHO guidelines. While some officials advocate for achieving this alignment by 2030, others are pushing for a more distant target of 2040. Any delay in implementing the new guidelines would have serious consequences for the well-being of Europeans, including the Polish population.

Time to start a war on smog

A recent study published in the International Journal of Public Health suggests that postponing the implementation of new air quality standards from 2030 to 2040 could result in the premature death of up to 87,000 people in Poland. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU are expected to decide on the issue by the end of February this year.

Meanwhile, ClientEarth Prawnocy dla Ziemi Foundation has released a video called "It's time to de-smog", featuring people with asthma and their families. The activists call on the Polish government and other EU countries to support ambitious air quality legislation.

"Poland, as one of the largest EU countries, holds a pivotal position that could significantly impact faster improvements in air quality across the EU. We urgently call on the Polish government to support regulations within the framework of the EU Council. These regulations will allow us to accelerate the fight against smog, thereby safeguarding the lives and health of millions of people," concludes Agnieszka Warso-Buchanan from the ClientEarth Prawnicy dla Ziemi Foundation.

Sources: ClientEarth Prawnicy dla Ziemi Foundation, Gazeta Wyborcza, Spider's Web, Airly

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