How does the combination of smog, winter and viruses affect the public health of Poles? This is the question raised by
participants in a debate organised by the editors of SmogLab. The debate was attended by representatives of various
industries, who drew attention to the harmful effects of air pollution.
Michał Domaszewski, Family Medicine Specialist, Health Ambassadors, stated that smog affects
many chronic diseases, from allergies to heart disease. During a smog alert, many patients require
hospitalisation. In Warsaw, according to data, around 3,000 patients die prematurely each year due to
ON SICK LEAVE BECAUSE OF SMOG?
Anna Rulkiewicz, President of the LUX MED Group, emphasised that the number of diagnoses of respiratory diseases in Poland
has increased over the last three years. Air pollution, smog, is one of the factors that
exacerbate the course of diseases, which, together with the emergence of COVID-19, poses an additional threat to public health
public health. During the 2022/2023 heating season, doctors issued three times as many exemptions for
The reopening of the possibility of heating with low-quality fuels has resulted in smog returning to places
from which it had been driven out. According to Paweł Mirowski, Deputy President of the Management Board of the National Environmental Protection and Water Management Fund, irresponsible
statements of prominent politicians, as well as the 2022 coal deficit and high coal prices have also
have contributed to increased air pollution.
Blanka Romanowska, Director of the Department of Infrastructure and Environment of the GMC, pointed out that
local authorities must act on the basis of knowledge and scientific data in order to take effective action against
Andrzej Guła, leader of the Polish Smog Alert, drew attention to the need to change the energy production model in Poland to a more ecological and
energy production model in Poland to a more ecological and sustainable one. Aleksandra Zybała, Communications Manager of
VELUX Poland, in turn, emphasised that changes must also be made at the level of construction, which
should be more environmentally friendly and energy efficient.
INNOVATIVE “NEUROSMOG” PROJECT
The innovative “Neurosmog” project, conducted in cooperation with Jagiellonian University, aims to
investigate the effects of air pollution on children’s brain development. Director of the Institute of Environmental Protection –
State Research Institute, Krzysztof Skotak, emphasises that the research is focused on a
a number of parallel activities, including brain scans of children up to the age of 14-15 and screening
statistical and epidemiological studies to obtain precise information on children’s exposure to
air pollution throughout their lives.
Preliminary results already indicate that air pollution has a negative impact on the brain function of
children, including reaction speed, correctness of responses or accuracy of perception of certain elements. The
greater the air pollution, the worse it is. The next step will be to investigate how the impact of cumulative
pollution affects children’s brain development, which requires another 15 years of research.
However, air pollution is not the only problem that affects our health. Communications manager
VELUX Poland’s communications manager, Aleksandra Zybała, highlighted that buildings that are uninsulated, damp and inefficient
are buildings that negatively affect people’s health, causing the so-called ‘sick building syndrome’.
building syndrome”. According to the Healthy Homes Barometer report, as many as one in four Poles is exposed to
indoor climate hazards such as dampness, mould, inadequate lighting,
inadequate temperature or excessive noise.
Awareness of these risks is becoming increasingly important because, as Zybała points out, we spend
90 per cent of our time in buildings, with the added problem of smog. Therefore, the role of business in the context of
fuel poverty and the fight against air pollution is becoming increasingly important.
CLEAN AIR PROGRAMME
The Clean Air Programme is one of the government’s most important initiatives to improve air quality
air quality in Poland through the modernisation of homes and buildings. Under the programme, residents can
receive funding for thermo-modernisation and replacement of fossil fuels. The programme is financed
both national and EU funds.
As emphasised by Paweł Mirowski, Deputy President of the Management Board of NFOŚiGW, the Clean Air Programme is important not
not only because of the improvement in air quality, but also because of the financial savings.
Co-financing of up to 100% of eligible costs is available for the lowest income earners, defined
as energy excluded. More than 591,000 beneficiaries have benefited from the programme, with applications worth
amounts to PLN 12.5 billion.
Moreover, the programme is constantly being developed and adapted to the needs of local residents. From 3 January 2023
changes have been introduced to encourage energy savings through energy improvements to buildings.
One of the most interesting elements of the programme is the possibility for
people who have already benefited from the programme before.
As Paweł Mirowski points out, the changes to the programme have given the scheme a new impetus. Since 3 January
January, more than 53,000 applications for over PLN 2.5 billion have already been submitted. This confirms that Poles are
interested in modernising their homes and saving energy.
In the context of changes in preferences regarding energy sources, Paweł Mirowski notes that Poles are increasingly
are more willing to invest in photovoltaics. One of the factors prompting Poles to modernise and change their
their homes is comfort. WHO research shows that increased public spending on housing
and amenities has a greater impact on our health than allocating these funds to health care.
ŚLĄSK IS A LEADER WHEN IT COMES TO THE CLEAN AIR PROGRAMME
The biggest problem in Poland in terms of air pollution is in the southern part of the country. Such
This was stated by Blanka Romanowska, Director of the Infrastructure and Environment Department of the Upper Silesian
Upper Silesian and Zagłębie Metropolis (GZM). Although the situation is not easy, the Silesian Voivodeship
seems to be the leader when it comes to the implementation of the Clean Air Programme.
As many as 144 out of 167 municipalities in the Silesian Voivodeship have signed an agreement with the Provincial Fund for Environmental Protection and
Environmental Protection and Water Management Fund in Katowice, which allows them to run consultation points and accept applications under the Clean Air Programme.
accepting applications under the Clean Air Programme. In the Upper Silesian and Zagłębie metropolitan area,
comprising 41 cities and municipalities, 35 such agreements have been signed.
However, as Blanki Romanowska notes, the implementation of the Stop Smog programme is difficult, both for the
coordinator and for the municipalities. The programme was potentially attractive to energy-poor beneficiaries,
however, it is now competing with the offer of the Clean Air Programme. The director of the Infrastructure and
GZM Environment believes that this situation must be changed in some way.
In view of the thermomodernisation challenges, a parallel programme is being implemented to support municipalities in reaching
for EU subsidies for the modernisation of installations in multi-family buildings. Paweł Mirowski
expresses hope that after the amendment of the law, which currently hinders the implementation of the Stop Smog programme, it will be
increased by 100%. In turn, Blanka Romanowska points out that the Silesian Voivodeship and the Upper Silesian
Metropolis is a special area, which is distinguished by its population density and the age and density of its building fabric.
The number of municipalities that have signed up to the Clean Air Programme in Silesia is impressive,
but there is still much to be done to improve air quality in the region. Supporting municipalities in implementing
joint projects and the amendment of the law that impedes the implementation of the Stop Smog programme are steps in the right direction.
The visible progress in the implementation of the Clean Air Programme in the Silesian Voivodeship is the result of the cooperation and
determination of local authorities and residents. This programme is particularly important for the region, which is struggling with
facing serious air pollution problems. As Blanka Romanowska, director of the
of the Infrastructure and Environment Department of the Silesian Urban and Regional Development Authority, emphasised that the Silesian Voivodeship has the highest levels of air pollution in Poland and the highest levels of pollution in Europe.
air pollution in Poland, and the southern part of the country has the biggest problem.
Therefore, in order to reduce pollutant emissions and improve air quality, the Silesian Voivodeship has taken on the
responsibility for the implementation of the Clean Air Programme, the aim of which is the thermal modernisation of buildings and replacement of old boilers and stoves.
buildings and replacing old boilers and cookers with new, more environmentally friendly ones. Cooperation with the Provincial
Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in Katowice and the signing of agreements with the majority of municipalities in the region is bringing positive effects.
municipalities in the region is yielding positive results.
However, as Director Romanowska points out, the implementation of the Stop Smog programme is difficult, both for the
coordinator and for the municipalities themselves. The competition between the offer of the Clean Air Programme and the Stop
Smog makes the implementation of the latter programme less attractive to beneficiaries of poor
energy poor. Therefore, as the director emphasises, changes to the law are needed to help municipalities in the
implementation of projects and encourage more associations to support their municipalities in this type of action.
The aforementioned changes are also expected to help in obtaining EU funds for the thermal modernisation of multifamily buildings
multifamily buildings, which is another challenge for local authorities. Certainly, the effective use of
funds to improve the region’s air quality will help to improve living conditions for residents and protect the environment.
As Andrzej Guła, the leader of the Polish Smog Alarm, emphasises, the modernisation of nearly 3 million buildings in Poland
is a necessity in order to solve the smog problem. This programme represents an important investment challenge for
country and families, especially in times of energy crisis. However, Guła stresses that the programme requires
further reforms, such as de-bureaucratising the programme at the level of provincial environmental funds
environment funds and providing pre-financing for those without sufficient financial resources.
The president of NFOŚiGW, Paweł Mirowski, defends the Clean Air Programme, stressing that only in a fraction of
of cases beneficiaries feel disadvantaged. At the same time, he appreciates the role of the Polish Smog Alarm in the
dialogue and emphasises the need to simplify procedures for paying out and accounting for subsidies, to speed up action at the provincial level and to reach out to those excluded from the programme.
provincial level and to reach out to excluded potential applicants. Aleksandra Zybała,
who deals with environmental issues at the Business Centre Club, also emphasises the need to simplify the
procedures of the programme.
The implementation of the Clean Air Programme represents an opportunity to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
If properly modernised, households will be able to reduce their coal consumption
emissions to the tune of 5 million tonnes per year. This programme is crucial in the fight against smog in Poland, but requires further
reforms and simplification to reach its full potential and meet the expectations of the population.
In recent years, Poland has been increasingly associated with one of the biggest environmental problems
plaguing Europe – smog. According to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2018, 33 of the 50
most polluted cities in Europe were located in Poland. This problem affects not only large cities
cities, but also smaller towns and villages.
POLAND A COPYCAT OF EUROPE
During the discussion, it was pointed out that in the doctor’s office, doctors should ask about much more than
just about the patient’s state of health. As noted by Michał Domaszewski, Specialist in Family Medicine,
Health Ambassadors: “Doctors, in his opinion, should ask not only how you are feeling, but also how many
degrees at home?” or “What do you burn in the oven?”. In this way, doctors could better make patients aware of the
about the impact of air quality on health.
Krzysztof Skotak, Director of IOŚ – PIB, emphasised that the problem of smog does not only concern patients, but also
decision-makers. “Awareness should be raised not only among patients, but also among decision-makers,” – he said. Anna
Rulkiewicz, President of the LUX MED Group, added that smog deprives us not only of years of life, but also of years of healthy life.
She also pointed out that decision-makers are aware of the smog problem, however, they often put their current
political calculations over knowledge.
The discussion ended with a consensus that a consistent anti-smog policy can contribute to
to solving the air pollution problem, reducing the production of greenhouse gases and
lowering the costs of expenditure for all of us. It is therefore worth taking action on this issue and raising
public awareness of the impact of air quality on our health and the environment. As
Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
Two days filled with meetings, more than thirty debates, round-table discussions, motivating power speeches, dozens of Polish and foreign experts – this is how the largest environmental event in Central and Eastern Europe – the TOGETAIR 2023 International Climate Summit – is presented. The event takes place at the University of Warsaw Library on 20-21 April. TOGETAIR 2023 has received prestigious patronage from Polish and foreign institutions, including the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, and the Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki.
The full agenda of the event including panellists is available at: https://togetair.eu/agenda/
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