In 2013, more than 22,900 people lost lives through air pollution brought about by coal-fired power stations in the European Union. This is confirmed in a report published on Tuesday by the organisations Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Climate Action Network Europe (CAN), WWF and Sandbag (a campaigner on commercial emissions).
By way of comparison, accidents on European roads caused 26,000 deaths in the same period.
The report analyses the health impacts on air pollution of those European coal-fired power stations providing available data. This came from 257 out of the 280 such power stations located in the EU. Taken together, those power stations analysed produce a quarter of the EU’s electricity.
It emerges from the report that in 2013, more than 22,900 premature deaths and tens of thousands of health problems were caused by coal-fired power stations. The report states that, in 2013, the cost of health care ensuing from this ran up to 63.2 billion euros.
The organisations stress that “each power station harms not only residents living close by but also those of neighbouring countries.”
In the report, in respect of Belgium, only emissions from the coal-fired power plant at Langerlo, which has now closed, are taken into account. These emissions were responsible in 2013 for 40 premature deaths. The air pollution coming from neighbouring countries led to more than 510 premature deaths in Belgium during the same year.
The report confirms that every emission reduction has an immediate positive effect. If Germany ceased to operate its coal-fired power stations, 1,860 premature deaths nationwide and 2,500 abroad could be avoided each year.
A premature death, in this report, means a death attributed to exposure to a risk factor, or air pollution. It is so-called “premature” as it would have been delayed had the air quality been good.