Where can you breathe easy in Czechia? In very few places, experts say

Experts say that poor air quality increases the chance of heart attacks and strokes, with pregnant women and children among the most at-risk groups.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 14.11.2023 10:34:00 (updated on 14.11.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

More than one-fifth of Czechs breathe unsafe air, according to a new report from the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ). Experts warn that long-term inhalation of pollutants can significantly damage health due to lung disease, strokes, cancer, and dementia.

Ostrava and Olomouc have the nation's worst air due to typically industry-intensive activities. Šumava, to the far west of the country, bordering Germany, and several areas in Zlín and Karlovy Vary have the best-quality air across Czechia.

The dangers of bad air

Pulmonologist Vladimír Koblížek of Hradec Králové National University Hospital told reporters that studies show air pollution prevailing in much of Europe, including the Czech Republic, is "harmful" to residents' health.

Koblížek said air pollution contributes to "the smallest particles" getting in the blood and clogging vessels, raising risks of heart attacks and strokes. Scientists also link dirty air to higher dementia, asthma, and cancer rates, especially for women and children.

Even exercise near busy streets risks exposure, doctors caution, noting risks to pregnant mothers that include premature, underweight babies.

Solving the issue

In the Czech Republic, transport is a top source of the problem according to the State Institute of Public Health (SZU). While industry pollutes as well, "traffic is essentially the widespread and dominant source of air pollution in cities and urban areas long-term."


Small towns also suffer from home heating, though less data exists. Doctors urge making transport policy greener, such as by expanding electric rail.

Legislative changes related to emission limits when burning or heating households can also improve the situation. For example, the government has restricted the use of old boilers, which people have to replace with low-emission ones. The situation may soon become less bleak: according to the SZU, the last three years have seen an improvement in Czech air quality.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution worldwide is now a leading killer, comparable to smoking. At least 238,000 premature European deaths annually are blamed on fine particles alone, per the European Environment Agency. Central Europe and Northern Italy have the worst overall air quality across the whole continent.

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