Smothered by Smog — Polish Cities Rank Among Europe’s Dirtiest →

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Maciek Nabrdalik and Marc Santora, for The New York Times:

High atop the ski lift at Zar Mountain in southern Poland, the villages below disappear. At first, they seem obscured by morning fog. But the yellow haze does not lift. It hangs heavy, the contrast with the white snow making it clear that something is off.

What is off is the air. Poland has some the most polluted air in all of the European Union, and 33 of its 50 dirtiest cities. Not even mountain retreats are immune.

The problem is largely a result of the country’s love affair with coal. Like elsewhere in Poland, most of the homes in the villages below Zar Mountain are still heated by coal. Some 19 million people rely on coal for heat in winter. In all of the European Union, 80 percent of private homes using coal are in Poland.

Our past and current governments’ policies are unacceptable. I’m afraid not much will change for the better until we finally have fresh, forward-thinking, and honest candidates that manage to win elections. I’m not holding my breath, although I guess I should be.

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