Pollution and public health in the Katowice region

Silesia, Poland 1990 – 1991

The main pillar of communism ideology was the cult of the socialist progress in the form of heavy industry, heavy machines and big chimneys. Such huge factories and mines have overwhelmed the environment with pollutants. Nature has not been respected, and no care has been taken in the planning of landscapes (if such planning has ever existed). Natural resources have been treated as goods that will never run out. In Silesia there was a concentration of heavy industries that have generated atmospheric pollution on a large scale. The emissions per unit produced by industry were significantly higher than in Western Europe. The population of this area lived tucked between the mines and the mills, one town scarcely distinguishable from the next, along snaking roads choked with heavy truck traffic. The result was dead and dying forests, high infant mortality and lower life expectancy than in other European countries. In addition, hard physical work, stressful urban conditions, uncomfortable overcrowded buses and trains and other socio-economic factors (poverty, diet, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse) made people emotionally explosive, overreactive and aggressive.

This inquiry was conducted in 1990-91, with the indispensable collaboration of the Centre for Studies on Human and Natural Environment of the University of Silesia. The Centre researchers have facilitated the access to the sites and to exclusive data still hidden to the public at that period. They gave me valuable assistance proofreading and controlling the connections between the collected scientific data.