Polish pollution akin to smoking 4,000 cigarettes a year

The Big Smoke: Researchers estimate that living in smoggy Kraków is the same as smoking 4,000 cigarettes a year. [Shutterstock]

Air pollution made headlines in Poland this week but the issue was not the only thing to worry Poles, as lack of transparency and corruption once again reared their heads. EURACTIV Poland reports.

When Poles learned last week that levels of PM2.5 and PM10 dust are routinely several times above the safe limits, they naturally became worried.

Even more so after they realised that air quality alarm levels in Poland are set to much higher levels than in other European countries. When pollution exceeds these levels, the government must inform citizens of the danger.

For example, the smog alarm in France for PM10 dust is triggered when there is at least 80 μg per cubic metre.

In Poland, warnings are issued only when PM10 content is above 300 μg per cubic metre. According to statistics, about 48,000 people die each year in Poland due to the horrendous air quality.

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Some actions are already being taken, such as subsidies to help install more efficient heating solutions. Yet, a real change will also require a significant educational rethink, as much of the smog is created by the fuel people use to heat their houses.

Unfortunately, many people use very low quality coal by-products or even rubbish.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Konstanty Radziwiłł tried to blame smog on people smoking. It did not go well but inspired many media sources to calculate the effect of smog in terms of cigarettes.

Apparently, living in Warsaw is equivalent to smoking about 1,000 cigarettes per year, while for Kraków it is 4,000. Both compare poorly with New York, where the estimate is 275 cigarettes per year.

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Maybe the degrading air quality is the reason for Law and Justice (PiS), the ruling party, to accelerate grabbing all the possible posts for their family members – shorter life expectations mean they need to make hay while the sun shines, after all.

Business daily Puls Biznesu this week published a study listing all the posts in various public offices, companies, and similar institutions that have been given to PiS activists and their friends and families, including some friends of Prime Minister Beata Szydło.

The list has 1,000 names on it, but Puls Biznesu admits it is far from being complete.  It also points out that when it published such lists for the Civic Platform – Polish People Party government back in 2012, PiS was the first to cry out for more transparency and meritocracy in the country’s institutions.

One of the PiS members who cried the loudest and prepared a strategy for increasing transparency was Dawid Jackiewicz. Jackiewicz was treasury minister in the current government, which governs many of the companies controlled by the Polish state, including nominations for various posts within them.

He was dismissed in September last year; officially, it was due to the planned reorganisation of the Treasury but sources said that Jackiewicz apparently went overboard with pushing his people into various institutions and even Jaroslaw Kaczyński, PiS leader, said enough was enough.

More sombre news this week has been the passing of Tomasz Kalita, a former spokesperson for Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). He was just 37 but lost his fight with brain cancer. For the final months of his life, he was an outspoken supporter of legalising marijuana for medicinal use.

Yet, despite the words of support for Kalita’s family, medical marijuana has become a touchy subject in Poland over the last couple of months.

While Piotr Liroy-Marzec, a rapper turned MP from Kukiz’15 (officially in the opposition but it supports the government in most of its initiatives), tried to get the parliament moving on this subject, it has proven to be a difficult struggle. Now, a project is in the works in one of the parliamentary subcommittees.

Germany votes to ease access to medical marijuana

The German Bundestag today (19 January) unanimously passed legislation granting seriously ill patients easier access to medical marijuana. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Currently, there are some options to get medical marijuana but requests can only be submitted for a specific person and it requires personal approval from the health minister.

Radziwiłł, the current minister, does not believe there is any proof of marijuana actually being used to treat diseases and, with regards to its pain-suppressing qualities, he believes there are better choices out there.

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