Improved air quality saved at least 25,000 Polish lives, new study finds

Credit: Adobe Stock
Credit: Adobe Stock

At least 25,000 Poles are alive thanks to improved air quality between 2018-2022, according to analysis conducted by the European Clean Air Centre.

The European Clean Air Centre (ECAC) investigated how the decline in PM2.5 dust concentrations in 2018-2022 translated into improved health of residents of three voivodeships in Poland: Silesia, Małopolska and Masovia. The relationship between the lower PM2.5 concentration and the reduction in the number of premature deaths and urgent hospitalisations for cardiovascular and pulmonological reasons was investigated. The base year was 2017.

The researchers also identified the health impacts of still not achieving new clean air standards. The analyses were carried out using the World Health Organization (WHO) methodology for assessing the impact of long-term exposure to air pollution on the health of the general population.

It turned out that during the five years for which the health effects of improving air were analysed, 5,900 premature deaths were avoided in Małopolska, 6,723 in Masovia (2,382 of them in Warsaw) and as many as 12,571 in the Silesian Voivodeship. The total number of premature deaths avoided was estimated at 25,194, says the Polish Smog Alert press release.

'Our analysis covered three voivodeships, but the gradual air quality improvement applies to the entire country. We can assume with a high degree of certainty that during the analysed five years, not just 25,000 deaths were avoided in Poland, but perhaps two or three times that', says ECAC President Łukasz Adamkiewicz.

On top of that, in Silesia, 9,086 emergency hospitalisations for cardiovascular and pulmonological reasons were avoided. In Masovia, the number of emergency hospital visits decreased by 5,615, and in Małopolska by 5,086.

Adamkiewicz adds that the problem of air pollution in Poland still exists and much remains to be improved. That is why the results of the analysis should become an impulse for action for local government officials. 'It is worth improving air quality because it translates into thousands of avoided premature deaths and hospitalisations', he says.

The the process of stopping the use of old, inefficient coal and wood boilers is underway in Poland. The Institute of Environmental Economics in Kraków estimates that the number of such boilers decreased by approximately 800,000 units, which made the winter air over Poland a bit clearer.

However, until Poland achieves new clean air standards, its current condition will continue to cause a total of 9,601 premature deaths per year in the voivodeships covered by the study - 2,255 in Małopolska, 2,735 in Masovia and 4611 in Silesia, according to the study.

According to experts, most activities aimed at improving air quality still need to be implemented in the Silesian Voivodeship, where, in combination with densely populated cities, the air in the studied areas still has the worst parameters.

'The fight against smog has a deeply human dimension. I read this report with great joy, because it shows that the thing that we are fighting for ensures that Poles live longer and better. For me, the conclusions of the report are obvious, but we still hear the voices of people and even institutions that question the sense of fighting air pollution', says Piotr Siergiej, spokesman for the Polish Smog Alert.

He adds that for the state budget, each patient and each hospitalisation avoided means huge savings that can be redirected to other important health activities. 'The fight against smog is really good business - in a very broad sense of the word', says Siergiej.

The European Clean Air Centre is an independent think tank that promotes the goals that should be pursued in the field of air quality and climate protection at the national and EU level. ECAC specialists support impartial, knowledge- and research-based solutions aimed at improving air quality. (PAP)

Joanna Morga

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