With government-imposed tax hikes making the cost of heating oil prohibitive for many Greeks, they’re now being warned to be careful what they burn in their fireplaces and wood stoves as soot and smoke are filling the night air, making it unhealthy.
The Ministry of Environment has advised people not to use fuels that are polluting, although that’s the only choice left for many who can’t afford heating oil that is running at 1.50 euros per liter ($1.98) or about $7.50 a gallon in some cases.
The country’s Network Monitoring Station of Air Pollution has recorded, especially in Athens, unusually high levels of suspended particles, particularly at night, when people who stay outside for any period of time find their clothes and hair smell like they’ve been near a fire.
Business is booming at yards that sell wood, but at least one owner of a wood business, said he’s not raising his prices, despite the demand. “In my neighbourhood, we were three or four shops. Now we’ve become twenty. Our customers have spread out to all the shops. You try to sell as cheaply as you can to your customers so you don’t lose them,” George Mihas said.
More wood being burnt together with Athens’ geographical position, is causing more smog and more potentially harmful particles in the air, health officials said. At dusk, a sooty smog can be seen covering Athens these nights, as seen in this photo by Yiannis Larios. In many parts of Greece, this has been a relatively mild winter but if colder weather sets in, the use of fireplaces and wood stoves is expected to increase considerably, further polluting the air.