Air Pollution, up to 1989
In the 1980ís, air pollution in Poland reached a critically high level, making our country one of the most polluted in Europe. The emissions of sulphur dioxide in Poland (4 million tons per year) constituted approximately 10% of the total emissions of sulphur dioxide in Europe. Even more strikingly, the emissions of dust in Poland (approximately 3 million tons per year) constituted 12.5% of the total in Europe.
A particularly serious situation existed in the large industrial areas of Poland, where the levels of emitted air pollutants were most concentrated. Without doubt, the worst situation was in the Katowice voivoidship, where an area which constitutes 2.1% of the territory of Poland, emitted as much as 20ñ25% of the national totals of sulphur dioxide (SO2), dust, and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
Allowable concentrations of major atmospheric pollutants have been exceeded for many years in the Katowice voivoidship. In addition to the atmospheric pollutants, allowable concentrations of aliphatic hydrocarbons, benzo-a-pyrenes and heavy metals, which are harmful to human health, have also been in excess. The mean concentrations of all of these substances exceeded the allowable concentrations 2ñ10 times, in the area of the Katowice voivoidship where approximately 4 million people live. It is no surprise, that the constant emission of these harmful substances has posed a large tHReat to human health. The average life span of men and women in this area is one year shorter than in other parts of Poland, and the death rate for men, aged 30ñ59, exceeds the national average by 40%. In the Katowice voivoidship, children are usually born underweight and the occurrence of birth defects is up to 60% more common. In the areas with the highest concentrations of pollution, cases of individuals with altered genetic codes have also been noted.
Near Upper Silesia, unusually high concentrations of main atmospheric pollutants were noted in the years 1988ñ1989 in Cracow, Walbrzych, and in such places as the copper basin region (Legnica, Lubin, Glogow), Plock (petrol refinery), Tarnobrzeg (coal mines, and sulphur refineries), and also in the areas of all the major Polish cities.
A particularly severe situation of atmospheric pollution exists in the area known as the "black triangle". This "black triangle" is the point where the BORDERs of Poland, Czech Republic, and Germany meet. This region was home to the largest basin of brown coal in Europe, where approximately 200 million tons were produced per year (25% of the total production in Europe). The coal was burned on the spot, in one of the 16 large power plants, producing enough energy to heat the homes in Saxony and northern Czech Repulic. As a result, in this area, which is hardly 1/4 the territory of Holland, 3 million tons of SO2, and approximately 1 million tons of NOx were emitted each year. The emission of excessive amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere resulted in acid rain. The acid rain created an ecological disaster, practically destroying the mountain forests, and acidifying the soils in the Karkonosze and the Izerskie Mountains.