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How do the Polish feel about air pollution in their cities?

marcos 2 | 6
18 Dec 2010 #1
Hi All

I have been living in Krakow since September and since the weather has got cold I have really started to notice how polluted this place gets. I have had to cover up all the ventilation in my apartment to stop the stink from getting in.

As far as I can tell the problem is people burning some sort of low grade coal in older houses. Every evening the sky fills with acid smog when people get home from work and light their fires. At 17:00 the air is starting to smell of sulphur and by 22:00 it is really minging.

I have been quite shocked by this, I come from the UK and we have a big problem with traffic pollution, but I have never experienced anything like this!!

It seems to me that all the apartment blocks do not burn coal, its only the older cottages and single houses that are causing most of the pollution.

So my question is WTF doesn't the PL government do something? What do Polish think about this, and is this something that gets talked about often, for example is air pollution seen as a high priority, or is it pretty low on the list?
tygrys 3 | 296
18 Dec 2010 #2
What would you heat your houses with if not with coal? Poland isn't a rich country to insure a change to every house to heat with electricity or gas. People are used to the smell and it doesn't bother them.
Zed - | 195
18 Dec 2010 #3
Sue them! It will, eventually, help them and you too :-)
Seanus 15 | 19,706
18 Dec 2010 #4
Ask those from Bytom :) They know it but laugh it off. What can they do about it? They profit from industry there so.....
Wroclaw 44 | 5,387
18 Dec 2010 #5
for example is air pollution seen as a high priority,

obviously not in wroclaw. rondo reagana wrocław is a series of bus and tram stops built in the the middle of the highest concentration of traffic in the city.
jwojcie 2 | 763
18 Dec 2010 #6
As far as I can tell the problem is people burning some sort of low grade coal in older houses.

What did you expect living next to Silessia, one of the biggest coal mining sites in Europe? ;-) Believe me, burning coal in the house is not a problem and CO2 will not hurt you (except maybe global warming ;) The real problem are morons who burn their plastic waste. That is unhealthy for neighbours for sure.
noreenb 7 | 557
18 Dec 2010 #7
I feel good in my city. It's not the cleanest, there are plenty cars and huge traffic on the roads
Doing anything with it is difficult. You have to get used to it, that's all what I can say.
Krakow is next to Silesia and this is very polluted area in Poland, plenty mines, many cities that are placed not very far away one from another.

Why aren't You somewhere else? So many cities are much cleaner than Kraków.
OP marcos 2 | 6
18 Dec 2010 #8
Thanks for the replies. Pretty much confirms what I thought; that most people are really not too bothered. In fact when I mention the pollution on a particularly bad day, like yesterday was, most people don't even seem to have noticed. Guess it depends what you grew up with.

Actually the pollution only really gets to me on certain days when there is no wind to clear the smog. I think I will buy an air scrubber for my apartment, so at least I won't have to breath this s**t while I am sleeping.

Was in Zakopane today; that place is even more polluted than Krakow. Poland is the land of coal!
delphiandomine 85 | 18,254
18 Dec 2010 #9
Poland is the land of coal!

When coal is cheap and abundant, while gas is expensive and not available to be produced domestically - are you surprised?

For what it's worth, Poznan and Wroclaw (except the centre of Wroclaw) don't seem particularly polluted.
noreenb 7 | 557
18 Dec 2010 #10
I think I will buy an air scrubber for my apartment

Good idea! On the other hand, breathing this dirty air will help you to immunize against the worst sh*** for years!
OP marcos 2 | 6
18 Dec 2010 #11
When coal is cheap and abundant, while gas is expensive and not available to be produced domestically - are you surprised?

No, not too surprised, but all this pollution must take years off the life of the average Pole not to mention the healthcare costs. I was just interested to know whether this is currently being debated in Poland, as I don't understand Polish language well enough to follow the news.

The solution seems obvious; keep on using your cheap abundent coal in power stations, and use electric to heat houses. Its got to be easier to control the chimneys of a few power stations than the chimneys of millions of homes.
delphiandomine 85 | 18,254
18 Dec 2010 #12
Last time I checked, the life expectancy of a Pole was about 4 years less than the UK. Bear in mind that Poland is much poorer, and there are areas of somewhat extreme poverty - coal doesn't make much difference.

use electric to heat houses

And where is the money coming from to pay for this electricity, as well as paying to improve the transmission networks? The electricity supply can be very unreliable in rural areas - what use is electric heating if it keeps failing?
OP marcos 2 | 6
18 Dec 2010 #13
Well I was thinking of cities mainly, all these shopping malls I am seeing everywhere; if there is money for this........

I find it hard to believe that living in coal smoke would not affect ones health.

One thing I do know is that London in the 1950's had massive air pollution caused by coal burning in houses, in 1952 there was the great smog which killed about 3000 people, all due to the use of coal for home heating in combination with weather conditions which trapped the smoke at ground level for weeks.

Of course I am not saying that this is the situation now in Krakow, but is is a good example of how a s**t situation can be corrected. Basically they brought in a law (called the 'clean air act') which said; if you want to burn coal in the city, then it has to be 'smokeless' coal. Problem solved; London no longer has pollution problems caused by coal. Now there are pollution problems caused by diesel engines, but that's another story.
ShortHairThug - | 1,103
19 Dec 2010 #14
I find it hard to believe that living in coal smoke would not affect ones health.

It does but at a much slower pace. Can you imagine the effects of enduring a couple of subfreezing months can do to your health? let’s just say you wouldn’t have to worry about it ever again.

law (called the 'clean air act') which said; if you want to burn coal in the city, then it has to be 'smokeless' coal. Problem solved;

We already have smokeless restaurants, pubs, work place etc., courtesy of the well educated public on its harmful effects in the form of second hand smoke but breathing the diesel fumes is perfectly fine, living next to high power lines no problem, next to nuclear power plant....... without it our civilization would come to a sudden and screeching halt so they tell you the pollution caused by those facilities is at allowable levels, only issuing a smog alert when it gets so bad that even a blind man can see and smell the smog. Notice it's only an alert, it's still safe for you to venture outside and you gladly accept it.

Have you ever seen smog over any major city caused by the cigarette smoke? Yet one is acceptable while the other is an imminent health risk to the public at large. Face it, sh** only changes when it’s financially profitable for the major corporations and even then it’s at the expense of the taxpayer. While they change their infrastructure at no cost to them while at the same time they charge you a premium prices for their service. All it takes is a major anti this anti that campaign, introduction of new laws, and couple of interviews with the so called experts in the field for the public to be well informed on the issue, outraged and accept the burden of cost. Who’s better suited for that task then a semi educated moron? Carefully manipulated by those in whose interest it is to finally make the change, be it for good or bad but always without exception with a huge profitability factor for those involved through carefully planned release of steady stream of limited information to the public as it suits their interest.

Newsflash - most of our modern comfortable life style and technology has harmful effects on our health, the question is how long will it take? Even the latest advances in medical field and wonder drugs whose sole purpose is to relive one of your symptom in a relatively short period of time, while slowly causing harm to the rest of you in the long run is just a simple fact of life gladly accepted by you. Short term solution and comfort takes priority over the long term. Why dwell on it, there’s not a damn thing you can do about it, sooner or later we’re all worm food anyway. Enjoy while you can, every day that passes by gets you one step closer to your unenviable end.
cheehaw 2 | 263
19 Dec 2010 #15
I grew up as a steel town kid. Most of my uncles worked for Bethlehem steel, lots of coal dust, the coal ovens.. the slag would light the sky red at night..

I can't think of one uncle that did not die of emphysema. maybe one will come to mind..
tygrys 3 | 296
19 Dec 2010 #16
I read something once saying that Poland is one of the countries with the most poluted air. Many Poles do have health problems but don't realize it comes from polution.
peterweg 37 | 2,321
19 Dec 2010 #17
The air quality in Krakow is terrible, I avoid leaving the apartment. It regularly exceeds the EU safety limits, but as has been said the biggest danger is people burning rubbish and plastic (releasing cyanide etc). The small quantity of plastic burn is significantly more dangerous than the coal burning.

Poor air quality reduced lifespan, there is no question about that. One thing that has shocked me is the number of people with health problems, there is cancer everywhere it would seem. Maybe its just who I'm hanging about with (nurses).

The long term solution is the cheap gas that Poland will start producing. The EU will start enforcing the clean air laws and Poland will have to tax coal more heavily and subsidize the switch to gas fire heating.

Gas is so convenient compared to coal but coal is cheaper. I did a comparison, 1tonne of coal, produces 6666Khwr, which would cost 1250 zloty (£264) in the UK using gas (I'm uncertain about Polish gas prices). Last year I paid 700zloty for 1 tonne of coal, someone claimed they paid 1000 this year; if so the difference isn't too big.
john123 1 | 20
6 Sep 2012 #18

Most polluted Polish cities

Regardless of readings and figures, I would like to nominate Plock as the most polluted city in Poland.
Stopped by last year, and want a headache I had.

Any sympathies?
from Ontario
30 Jun 2013 #19
I'm in Świecie, 86-105. Where can I purchase an Air Scrubber ? Is there a certain model that has proved itself ?
jon357 63 | 15,045
7 Jan 2014 #20
Pollution in Warsaw

This is a pollution map of Warsaw. Quite a shock, really, especially about some of the western suburbs and parts of the city centre. Without going into specifics, I can see that Sobieski, Pol3 and myself have relatively clean air but Harry should think about buying a smog mask.

I don't really notice it myself, except for the beautiful chemical sunsets over Wola and Ursus. For years there have been stories about other cities and an old colleague who was from Katowice used to claim that he never wore a white shirt there because the collar would be dirty within a couple of hours (that was nearly 20 years ago when there was more heavy industry and coal fires) but what about the other cities in PL?

Uglywoman 3 | 76
7 Jan 2014 #21
Well Jonny let's hope the map was wrong and that the scientists made a mistake, maybe in reality there is no pollution but they accidentally made a mistake!
local_fela 17 | 172
7 Jan 2014 #22
most people are really not too bothered.

they are scared of talking loud!

The govt would take money only for stupid infrastructural development from the EU, but not to resolve the issue of air pollution. Come 2020, it will affect even more locations close to Poland.

the air is starting to smell of sulphur and by 22:00 it is really minging.

Spot on. still time to develop, you can compare Poland to Madagascar or even Mozambique these days! ;)
sobieski 107 | 2,128
8 Jan 2014 #23
I can see that Sobieski, Pol3 and myself have relatively clean air but Harry should think about buying a smog mask.

It is a bit of a surprise that Bielany is doing so well..Arcelor Mittal (Huta Warszawa) being so close by. But maybe it has something to do with the fact they installed some years ago very strong filters on their chimneys...And the abundance of green spaces nearby (Las Młociński, Park Młociński, Las Bielański and Kampinos) for sure helps as well.
Monitor 14 | 1,820
8 Jan 2014 #24
I think that same important is weather wind can easily travel through the district from out of the city. If higher buildings block air, then stink cannot easily leave.
sobieski 107 | 2,128
8 Jan 2014 #25
Maybe Crow, Iron or Kondzior could shed a light on this one? After all they all consider themselves experts on Polish society?
Ironside 49 | 10,373
8 Jan 2014 #26
But as we all know, Iron is the definitive authority on everything concerning contemporary Poland.

I'm a way better than you lot can offer here.
local_fela 17 | 172
8 Jan 2014 #27
well... No snow, warm air, not yet reaching below freezing... mmmmmmmmmm sounds like global warming... and i think these cities are contributing a lot!
jon357 63 | 15,045
8 Jan 2014 #28
All of them are. Too many cars.
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
6 Jan 2015 #29
Big fine possibly looming due to alleged failure to get pollution within the limits agreed,Air-pollution-costing-Poland-millions

Sadly very evident not just in the city centre but greener areas like Krzyki, Sepolno and similar

This is perhaps due to wood or coal being used to heat houses as well as older diesel vehicles clattering up and down the streets, rubbing shoulders with the latest megabuck BMW and Subarus and an assortment of Chelsea tractors that are seen here all over the place, somewhat curiously.
kpc21 1 | 763
6 Jan 2015 #30
Wood and coal used to heat houses isn't such a problem. The problem is that many people burn garbage in their stoves and boilers. And it's virtually impossible to control this.

Another problem is that in many old buildings in the city centres there is still no central heating. When each flat, and even each room there has its own stove to heat it, there must be much of smoke even if they burn wood and coal. If some of them are burning garbage, it can be only worse. It's a problem in each big city. But as for example £ódź lays on flat terrain (in fact on a slope, but in this case it doesn't change anything), what's more, its centre has a grid of streets crossing with a right angle, which gives good ventilation of all the city, and thus there is not much problem with it there, Kraków is in a hollow and all the polluted air concentrates there.

In this situation the authorities of Kraków are going to introduce a ban on boilers and stoves in which solid fuel is used. But it will take much time until people will manage modernize the heating in their houses.

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