Athens Medical Association Warns of Public Health Hazard from Wood Smoke

The Athens Medical Association (ISA) warned of the hazard to the public health from a drastic increase in the use of wood fires for heating throughout the country, urging subsidies for natural gas and oil in order to contain the “toxic phenomenon” resulting from the burning of firewood and other wood products in fireplaces and woodstoves by the public due to spiraling heating oil and natural gas prices.

“The health of the citizens cannot be put at risk by the economic crisis. Oligory will have a cost not only in money, but also in human lives,” ISA said in an announcement following a meeting of the relevant ministries on ways to deal with the rising levels of wood-fire smog in Greek cities.

“We have no more margins for waiting for a solution to be found. Vigilance can prove to be a salvation, oligory will prove fatal: We have enough cancer cases in our country, let’s not cause more due to the economic crisis, because the cost of primary and secondary healthcare of sufferers of the damage caused by the wood-smoke fog is much larger than the cost of subsidizing natural gas and oil,” ISA president George Patoulis told AMNA.

Patoulis is scheduled to visit the National Health Operations Center (EKEPY) on Monday to discuss a study of epidemic data on respiratory and heart problems caused by the carbon particles in the atmosphere and a series of prevention measures to safeguard the health of the public, especially the vulnerable groups such as the chronically ill, the elderly and young children.

In a similar announcement on Thursday, the Panhellenic Medical Association warned that the rising smog levels in Greek cities as a result of people burning firewood and other wood products to keep warm harbour grave dangers for public health. The Panhellenic Medical Association urged the state to take measures to mitigate the impact of atmospheric pollution reported in many areas, especially in large urban centres such as Athens, Viotia and Thessaloniki, and protect the population from the unpredictable and potentially harmful repercussions for their health.