Air quality standards in Poland vs. EU - all you need to know

Air quality standards in Poland vs. EU - all you need to know

The EU has prepared guidelines for its member states regarding exposure to air pollution. However, these are only indicators - the countries can constitute their own standards that determine when the intervention becomes necessary. What are the air quality standards in Poland, and why do they differ from the European ones? 

The air quality standards - what do they serve for?

The regional standards regarding air pollution levels may vary. Some countries - for example, the Scandinavian ones - have strict norms regarding the concentration of pollutants. Others approach it less strictly, allowing the higher levels of particulate matter and toxic gases. 

Why are these standards constituted? It's not only a formality. They have a practical function, determining the required steps to be undertaken in case of a sudden air quality drop. If the particulate matter concentration reaches a defined level, the authorities are obliged to take action in order to avoid negative implications on society and the environment.

How should the authorities react to worsening air quality?

If the air pollution levels cross the acceptable standards, the authorities (local or regional) should inform their citizens about it. The best way to do that is by making a formal announcement in which all the potential risks are stated. If it reaches an alarming level, all the inhabitants of the affected region should be advised to stay at home. The authorities should also take all the necessary steps to minimize the risks and reduce pollution - for example, by making public transport available for free and distributing air quality sensor systems in the city. Recommending using maps updated in real-time, like, is also an advised protective measure.

What are the air quality standards in Poland?

In the European Union, the air pollution standards are regulated by the Directive 2008/50/EU. It specifies maximum exposure indicators recommended for the member states. However, the member states can define their own standards on the basis of which the preventive steps are made. In most EU countries, the alarming PM 2.5 level is on average 75-100 µg/m3. That's not the case with Poland. The country, known for its struggles with air quality, has established different standards that can be summarised as follows:

  • the acceptable level: 50 µg/m3
  • the informing level: 200 µg/m3
  • the alarming level: 300 µg/m3

Why are the air quality standards in Poland so different?

As you may have noticed, these standards definitely don't go in line with the average values determined by other European countries as alarming. What's the reason behind that? The answer is simple - Poland struggles with air pollution to a greater extent than most member states. Establishing similar standards in PM 2.5 level and other types of pollution could result in a constant need for alarming the community - at least in the winter seasons when the smog appears most often.

This kind of approach is not safe for the inhabitants of the affected regions. No wonder that there are more and more grassroots initiatives appearing. Organizations such as Polski Alarm Smogowy (Polish Smog Alarm) contribute to spreading consciousness and promoting personal measures, such as using air quality maps.

If you live in Poland and want to monitor the air pollution levels, consider using - an interactive map with real-time data delivered by air quality sensor system.