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Choking In Pollution, Poland Says Coal Is Not A Problem

A woman wears a mask in Krakow earlier this month
A woman wears a mask in Krakow earlier this month
Dominika Wantuch


WARSAW — For the Polish government, coal is nothing to worry about.

Sixteen Polish cities exceeded the annual limit of days with smog in the first two months of this year alone. And still, the government hasn't taken any steps to restrict poisonous coal dust or remove the fossil fuel from the market. Coal is not poisonous, says the Ministry of Energy.

European regulations stipulates that smog days shouldn't exceed 35 days a year. But the Polish cities of Kraków, Nowy Targ and Wodzisław Śląski have already crossed this limit.

Activists from the Podhale Smog Alarm Initiative wrote a letter in January to Prime Minister Beata Szydło: ""We ask you to hold a government session in Nowy Targ. Only in this way will ministers be able to understand how serious the problem of air pollution is in our country." Szydło did not come to the city.

The energy ministry did announce a plan to combat smog but experts say that the proposal won't change anything because it still allows the use of coal dust, slurry and coal flotation concentrate, which are responsible for nearly 70% of pollution in the air.

The Minister of Energy Krzysztof Tchórzewski repeated what Minister of Health Konstanty Radziwiłł had already claimed that coal does not kill.

Tchórzewski added that he does not think banning the sale of coal dust is necessary. This year was the first year that this list of cities exceeded the smog restrictions within 46 days. The European Commission filed a lawsuit against Poland for not meeting the European Union's air quality norms and for not taking steps to reach the target. Poland might have to dole out 4 billion Polish złotych ($982 million) for not complying with EU regulations.

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In the wake of Giulia Cecchettin's death, our Naples-based Dottoré remembers one of her old patients, a victim of domestic abuse.

Photograph of a large mural of a woman painted in blue on a wall in Naples

A mural of a woman's face in Naples

Oriel Mizrahi/Unsplash
Mariateresa Fichele

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