HEAL submits to Polish government health and air quality consultations
HEAL has responded to consultations on two strategic projects in Poland: the Public Health Bill and the National Air Protection Programme.
HEAL is asking the Polish government to consider the environmental causes of disease in its Public Health Bill and to include measurable goals in the National Air Protection Programme.
The first-ever Public Health Bill in Poland aims to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases of the circulatory system, respiratory and cancer in the country. Issued by the Ministry of Health, it currently includes no clear definition of the role of environmental determinants of health.
In its response to the consultation, HEAL has therefore proposed the inclusion of environmental factors, including air quality. Exposure to polluted air is among the top 15 health risk factors in Poland.
The Ministry of Health should identify environmental hazards and inform the public about the impact of the environment on health. It should also strengthen inter-ministerial cooperation and promote environmental conditions beneficial to health. The HEAL response also suggests that the role of the environment in health be included in the 2016-2025 National Public Health Programme, which is in simultaneous development.
Air quality plans
The National Programme for Air Protection (KPOP), prepared by the Polish Ministry of Environment, aims to improve air quality in Poland and minimise health and economic impacts. It is a strategic document and not legally binding.
Although it is good news that the issue of air quality is being raised as a ministerial priority in 2015 activities, HEAL would like to see clearly defined and measurable goals added to this strategic document.
Ambitious, concrete and measurable targets on cooperation with other ministries are needed. The current scale of the air quality problem requires a very strong commitment involving all ministries in reducing air pollution in Poland.
Another important omission is the contribution that coal power plants are making to emissions and the significant role of industry in the share of emissions. HEAL thinks it is particularly worrying that Poland has been granted an exemption to stick to stricter air emission limits for many of its coal plants under the Industrial Emissions Directive. With the renewed effort to improve air quality, the government should reconsider this exemption.
The Ministry of Environment should also list the specific measures that could allow local governments to restrict the use of selected solid fuels for heating purposes. Municipalities should be equipped with legal instruments to reduce transport emissions in cities and to set quality standards for the use of solid fuels and the performance of household boilers. Improvements should be made in the quality of information for citizens on pollution.
Each year, high levels of air pollution in Poland contribute to approximately 45,000 premature deaths every year, 12,000 hospitalisations, more than 500,000 visits to specialists and 14 million working days lost. Exposure to ambient and indoor air pollution are both among the top 15 health risk factors in Poland (67 factors in total), after improper diet, hypertension, smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.
Originally posted on 7 May 2015