‘Burn everything’: Poland chokes on the smog of war

(EurActiv, 9 Dec 2022) After Russian gas was cut off over a payment dispute in April, the Polish government dropped a two-year-old ban on residents burning lignite and poor-quality hard coal, which cannot be filtered effectively in home stoves.

The Tkaczuk family moved from the Polish city of Krakow to the village of Olpiny in the Carpathian foothills in 2018 in search of cleaner country air.

Four years on, as the fallout from the Ukraine war halted Russian gas supplies to Poland, the local authorities postponed a ban on the dirtiest stoves for heating, and air pollution in Olpiny exceeded the norms by four-fold last month.

“I feel completely helpless and abandoned by the state,” said Julia Tkaczuk, 38, whose five-year-old son has asthma. “Every sneeze is a warning sign for me.”

It’s even worse in Krakow, Poland’s second-biggest city.

On the night of 20 November, as temperatures slipped below zero for the first time this year, the only city in the world with a higher concentration of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in the air was New Delhi, according to Airly, an organisation based in California that monitors pollution.

While a number of European countries besides Poland, such as Germany and Hungary, are burning more polluting brown coal, or lignite, to keep the lights on, experts say it’s the use of the fuel at home that will have the biggest impact on health.

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EurActiv, 9 Dec 2022: ‘Burn everything’: Poland chokes on the smog of war