Wood fires cause unhealthy smog in Athens
This winter Athens is starting to resemble large Chinese cities, which are clouded with dangerous particulate matter. However, while China’s “Airpocalypse” is the result of rapid economic growth and industrialization, Greece’s smoke comes from economic crisis and rising poverty.
Due to an increase in heating oil and electricity prices, many Greek households have been forced to find alternative ways of heating their homes. A popular option in Athens and other cities is wood fires, which produce lots of smoke, which is a health risk, especially for the elderly and those who suffer from respiratory illnesses.
Doctors said that readings in several parts of the capital showed that smog levels were above the warning limit. They said there were similar readings in Thessaloniki, Patra and Volos.
The ministry warned that people over the age of 65 should limit their physical activity and that asthma sufferers might need to use their inhalers more frequently because of the smog.
Authorities are attempting to respond to the dangerous situation by offering free electricity days to poor families. Many have found it difficult to meet energy costs since an extra mandatory tax was tacked onto electricity bills in 2011. The price of fuel oil shot up in 2012, worsening the situation.
In Athens’ northern suburbs particulate matter levels have been twice the normal level and come close to 150 milligrams per cubic meter, which is considered dangerous.
Under the new plan, customers who have registered with the state power company’s low-income rates are entitled to two days of free electricity for every day that smog hits the “alarm” level.
Never known as a city with clean air by European standards, the higher than normal amount of smog in Athens has boosted levels of carcinogens and harmful compounds including sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. Don’t let the pleasant woody smell fool you.