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Poland’s people seek help from EU over national air pollution failure

Poland’s people have said their government is failing to protect them from the toxic chemical benzopyrene, protecting the coal industry instead, and have sought support from the European Commission.

A complaint to the EU signed by 25,000 citizens was issued today to the EU by NGOs. The signatories blame national and local governments for longstanding neglect in the fight against air pollution, and trying to protect the coal industry instead of human health.

Poland has the most polluted air in Europe. Over 85% of toxic benzopyrene is emitted by domestic heating stoves burning coal.

The average annual level of benzopyrene in Polish monitoring stations is, according to data from 2015, 4.74 ng/m3, which is almost five times the limit set by EU law.

ClientEarth lawyer Agnieszka Warso-Buchanan said: ”Earlier this year the government announced a new plan to tackle air pollution. We were expecting the introduction of a ban in the sale of the lowest quality coal for domestic heating purposes. However, the draft regulation as it stands changes nothing. The government openly admits the ban would harm the coal industry.”

What must Poland do by law to tackle pollution?

European law demands that Member States take all necessary measures, which do not entail disproportionate costs, in order to keep benzopyrene levels below legal limits. According to the European Commission’s report, air pollution conversely costs Poland €26bn per year.

Piotr Cykowski, from Action Democracy says: “The tens of thousands of people who signed the petition in only a week show that Polish society has lost its patience. In winter, any outdoor activity threatens the health of our families. We want to give a strong signal that we demand bold action now to let us breathe clean air in the near future.”

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