EU Takes Poland to Court Over Home Coal Burn Health Hazard

  • Emissions persistently exceed norms over past 5 years: EC
  • Pollution caused by small-scale burning of coal for heating

The European Commission referred Poland to the European Court of Justice after air pollution caused by household heating consistently exceeded the 28-nation bloc’s norms.

The daily limit values for small particulate matter known as PM10, predominantly from the use of coal in so-called small-stack or household heating, were persistently exceeded in 35 of 46 air quality zones during the last five years, the EU’s executive arm said Thursday. The particles can cause health problems including lung cancer and premature deaths, it said.

While some municipalities, including Krakow, the nation’s second-largest city and a popular tourist destination, introduced incentives to switch to gas heating and anti-smog regulations, the measures taken so far are insufficient, according to the Commission.

That comes as Poland’s government seeks to save the nation’s ailing mines, which employ almost 100,000 people, and said it wants coal to remain its main source of electricity for at least 30 years, putting it at odds with EU efforts to mitigate climate change. 

While improving air quality remains a priority of the Environment Ministry, changing the patterns of household heating and replacing old stoves that use poor-quality coal or even garbage will require an enormous effort and take time, the ministry said in a statement on its website Thursday.

“Poland isn’t facing any fines and is in the same situation as Bulgaria, while 14 other EU members are undergoing EU proceedings over the same issue," it said.

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