Toxic coal: counting the health cost of weak EU air pollution limits

Publication - May 20, 2015
MEDIA BRIEFING - Draft EU air pollution standards for coal power plants could lead to 71,000 avoidable deaths between 2020 and 2029, due to increased risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and other diseases associated with air pollution, according to a research commissioned by Greenpeace and the European Environmental Bureau.

The resulting coal pollution would also cause hundreds of thousands of additional cases of cardiac and respiratory illnesses, such as chronic bronchitis and asthma. Children would be particularly affected.

Building on official data, the new study models health impacts resulting from proposed EU emission limits and compares them to limits based on best available techniques. Mercury pollution from coal under the proposed limits would, for instance, have a greater impact on the mental development of foetuses, new born babies and young children, compared to emission limits reflecting best available techniques. Toxic emissions would also cause over 200,000 extra cases of acute bronchitis in children and severely increase the occurrence of asthmatic attacks. Overall, the increased health risks from air pollution would cost Europeans an estimated €52 billion over ten years, based on values used by the European Environment Agency.

These additional deaths and illnesses – and the resulting costs – could be avoided if the EU stood by its mandate to set standards in line with what best available techniques at best performing lignite and coal-fired power plants already achieve under economically viable conditions.

Read our media briefing.

and check out our report: Health and economic implications of alternative emission limits for coal-fired power plants in the EU.