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Pollution and public health in the Katowice region

Franco Zecchin

The main pillar of communism ideology was the cult of the socialist progress in the form of heavy industry, heavy machines and big chimneys. Nature as not been respected, and no care as been taken in the planning of landscapes (if such planning ever existed). Also natural resources have been treated as goods which will never run out. Such huge factories and mines have overwhelmed the environment with pollutants. And the regime's need for monuments and spectacular shows has been responsible for placing the most polluting factories in the most densely populated areas and towns. Aie emissions per unit produced by industry are significantly higher than in Western Europe. Silesia has also concentrete on developing heavy industry which generates atmospheric pollution on a large scale. The population of this area lives tucked between the mines and mills, one town scarcely distinguishable from the next, along snaking roads choked with heavy truck traffic. The result is dead and dying forests, high infant mortality and lower (due to environmental factors) 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 such as poverty, diet, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse make people emotionally explosive, overreactive and aggressive.
This inquiry was conducted with the indispensable collaboration of the Centre for Studies on Human and Natural Environment of the University of Silesia. The Centre researchers have often facilitated the access to the sites and to the data exclusive and opaque to the public. Valuable assistance was proofreading and control of connections made from the collected scientific data. In thanks, I donated a photographic exhibition that the Centre has shown in several Polish cities, in order to raise awareness about the devastation of Silesia and the risks to the population.
In this regard, the texts were translated into Polish and it was published in a catalog with the paradoxical title "Silesia, which we don't want to see ....".
(Silesia is a region that spans three states: most of it is located in south-western Poland, part of which lies beyond the border with the Czech Republic and a small part in Germany)
Link to Franco Zecchin web site


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0147346

Katowice, May 1991. Young man drunk.

Katowice, Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0147347

Chorzòw, May 1991. Coke plant in "Kosciuszko" steel factory, in the center of the town. Coke production is mainly responsible for pollution that endangers public health. Upper Silesia covers 6650 sq km (2.1% of Poland) with a population of 3.9 million (10.6% of the total Polish population), and 87.7% of that number live in towns. Of the total number of inhabitants, the 28.7% are under 21 and the 60.8% are people of working age. An average population density amounts to as many as 597/sq km (1987). The total labour force in the area of the Katowice province amounts to 1.604.500, and as many as 82.5% of that number are employed in production industries (1991). The concentration of industrial plants in the area of the Katowice province is one of the highest in the world (one industrial plant: 2.2 sq km).

Chorzòw, Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0147342

Myslowice. First communion girl near the prison.

Myslowice, Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0147345

Katowice. Man arrested by the police.

Katowice, Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0147338

Gliwice, March 1991. Oncological Centre. Child with cancer at the Zabrze Paediatric Centre for radiotherapy. Research at the Zabrze Medical College has shown that the increasingly high rates of infant mortality and child morbidity in the Upper Silesian mining basin are indices of the declared ecological disaster. In the most polluted region, in towns such as Zabrze, Ruda Slaska, Chorzòw, Bytom and Swietochlowice, the infant mortality rate is the highest in Poland.

Zabrze, Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0147336

Czeladz. "Saturn" coal mine, St. Barbara feast. St Barbara is the miners' patron; every year the miners spent this evening drinking beer and telling traditional jokes.

Czeladz, Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0147341

Katowice. Into a alcoholic family.

Katowice, Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0147344

Katowice. Woman beaten by her ausband in the street with her child.

Katowice, Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0147343

Katowice. Football supporters at a match.

Katowice, Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0253930

Katowice. Intervention of police during a fight between a husband and wife, in a family.

Katowice, Silesia, Poland - 00/00/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0253922

Dzieckowice. The wastes from the coal-powered electrical plant are forming a lake of radioactive mud. 27 (among 49) of Poland's districts are regarded as ecologically disturbed. The Upper Silesian industrial basin in Katowice being the most affected. Altogether, there are more than 5.000 industrial concerns in the province, 238 of them producing, by estimate weight, 40% of all the air pollution in the country. The worst part of the heavily polluted region is know as Silesian. The area's rivers are dead. In some areas, a squ¬are yard of soil contains enough lead to forge a toy soldier.

Dzieckowice, Katowice district Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0253924

Katowice. Veterans of the Second World War after receiving a medal from the prime minister Mazowiecki in the Voivod hall.

Katowice, Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0253925

Zabrze. Silesian Paediatric Centre. A nurse with a premature baby. Of the 51.381 children born in the province in 1989, 13,1% of them were born either prematurely or with illnesses or defects that required special care. In 1988 in Poland the child mortality rate due to congenital malformations or defects of the brain, nerves, heart or respiratory systems was 471 per 100.000 births - the standard calculation devised by the World Health Organization. The comparable figure for France, according to the U.N. agency is 167,5 per 100.000 live births. The number for Poland as a whole is 443,6 per 100.000, which is the highest rate listed in Europe by the WHO. Including those who survive past one year, a total of 2,1% of those children are disabled from birth, and 50% of pregnancies in Katowice are classified as "troubled". Of these, 20% concerned previous pathology, 20% had pregnancy complications and 5% had chronic or acute diseases.

Zabrze, Katowice district Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0253927

Bytom. Paediatric Surgery. Girl with cancer. From 1975-1985, 75.668 cases of oncologic diseases were registered in the Katowice District. Since 1986 lung cancer has predominated in men (30% morbidity), and breast cancer in women (about 20%). In 1988, about 16.000 new cases of oncologic diseases were registered. A trend of increasing morbidity and mortality rates for oncological diseases was observed. In Poland there are 350 cases of cancer in every 100.000 inhabitants. It is one of the highest rates in the world.

Bytom, Katowice district Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0253928

Katowice. This boy, 14 years old, stopped going to school and has started doing occasional work. In Zabrze, Bytom, Swietochlowice and Chorzòw most parents have been resident for at least 15 years and are heavy smokers (over 20 cigarettes daily), with mothers smoking during pregnancy and both parents smoking in the home. In Chorzòw the incidence of premature labour was as high as 16%, 5% of newborns babies were small for their age and 5% had congenital defects, while the average for Poland is 2%. Infant morbidity in the first 3 months was up to 38%, mainly caused by respiratory tract diseases, anemia and richitis. Environmental pollution, difficult living conditions, the smoking habits of mothers during pregnancy and alcohol abuse are the factors responsible for the bad health of small infants.

Katowice, Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991


Franco Zecchin / Picturetank ZEF0253929

Katowice. 1000-lecie Rehabilitation Centre. An handicapped boy make the phisiotherapy. The environmental pollution affects the heart, the brain, the digestive system, the genetic code. There are 1.253.000 inhabitants in the Katowice area under 19 years old, and 60.000 of them are in some way disabled. Five thousand of those are deeply retarded - they will never be able to care for themselves. There are 10.000 with movement disabilities, 2.000 due to brain paralysis, 2.000 to other birth defects. There are 15.000 chronically ill children, 10.000 with chronic respiratory problems, 3.500 with inborn heart defects; and blind children, deaf children, children with diabetes, kidney defects, leukemia, endocrine and metabolic illnesses.

Katowice, Silesia, Poland - 01/04/1991