Greek authorities warn against needless use of fireplaces causing smog

fireplace_smogGreek health and environment ministries issued a warning to the public on Tuesday evening to limit the needless of use of open fires in fireplaces as much as possible over the Christmas holidays, state news agency ANA-MPA reported.

According to weather service predictions, conditions on Tuesday and Wednesday tended to favour an accumulation of airborne pollutants in the atmosphere and avoiding use of fires will contribute to protecting public health.

Struggling under wage and pension cuts imposed by the country’s foreign lenders, Greeks have stopped using heating oil altogether in the past two years, pushing consumption down 70 percent at the peak of the crisis in 2012.

A – now reduced – fuel tax have helped spawn a set of unintended consequences – from illegal logging for firewood in the countryside to a wood-smoke smog appearing over Athens.

The impact is especially dramatic in the Greek capital, where tenants in both wealthy and poorer neighbourhoods have mostly opted not to turn on their apartment buildings’ central heating system.

So dramatic is the surge in the use of wood stoves and poorly functioning fireplaces that a hazy blanket of smog has crept up over the city’s skyline.

The return of the Athens smog – last seen in the 80s and 90s before the state subsidised cars with catalytic converters – has set off alarm bells among environmental groups and officials worried about potential health risks for the public.

Scientists warn that smog contains sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other carcinogens.

ANA-MPA, Reuters 

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