UK coal power plants cause 1,600 premature deaths a year, study finds

by Search Gate staff. Published Sun 01 Dec 2013 22:00
Coal-fired power stations cause 1,600 premature deaths a year

Shocking new figures on the harm to health associated with air pollution from coal-fired power plants in the UK have been released today by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

British coal power plants cause 1,600 premature deaths, 68,000 additional days of medication, 363,266 working days lost each year and more than a million incidents of lower respiratory symptoms, according to an expert assessment commissioned by HEAL.

The timing of the release coincides with an important debate on the future of coal power generation taking place in the House of Commons on Wednesday. A vote on the energy bill will decide whether a House of Lords’ amendment is upheld setting targets on greenhouse gas emission reductions for old coal power stations.

The setting of carbon emissions standards is needed to hasten the clean-up of plants that are both important polluters and major contributors to climate change.

The new figures quantifying the health impact of coal burning to create electricity in the UK are published today as part of a wider project which shows the unpaid burden of coal on public health in Europe.

HEAL’s main report published earlier this year entitled, “The Unpaid Health Bill, How coal power plants make us sick” estimated total health costs in the European Union at up to €43 billion per year. The UK health costs were estimated at £1.5 to 3.3 billion (€1.3 to 3.7 billion) per year, ranking number six among EU member states.

“Rapidly growing evidence of how coal affects air pollution and our health is pushing this issue onto centre stage in the energy debate,” said Genon Jensen, Executive Director, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

“Our report has had a great response from energy ministers and health professionals who are increasingly aware that coal is costly for public health. The time is now ripe to bring the health facts and figures into national debates and cost assessments. Wednesday’s vote in the UK offers a unique opportunity to cash in huge health co-benefits.”

The briefing by HEAL further highlights the contribution of coal to EU carbon emissions, and the urgent need to tackle climate change from a health perspective.

Climate change impacts are estimated to be already causing 400,000 deaths each year worldwide. The summer heat wave of 2003, which can be seen as a foretaste of climatic changes in Europe, led to 2,045 excess deaths in England and Wales within two weeks.

Dr Michal Krzyzanowski, visiting professor at King’s College London and formerly with the European Centre for Environment & Health (ECEH) of the World Health Organization, said: “The scientific evidence that air pollution causes disease is no longer in doubt.

“Ambient air pollution is recognised as a leading determinant of health globally and in Western Europe – and coal combustion is an important source of this pollution. Energy policy must seriously consider the significant health costs resulting from the use of coal.”

And Professor Paul Wilkinson, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) added: “The external costs to health from coal power generation are bigger than for any other energy source. The costs of reducing greenhouse gases are partially paid back because of lower health costs.”

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Comments about UK coal power plants cause 1,600 premature deaths a year, study finds

It always amuses me when the media use pictures of the cooling towers as the source of the CO2 emissions. The smoke is just water vapor...
Chris, Manchester around 3 weeks, 2 days ago

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