Report claims that particulate pollution from coal-fired power plants in the EU results in thousands of premature deaths each year
Coal power plants are among the worst sources of toxic air pollution in the EU and are responsible for 22,000 premature deaths a year, according to Greenpeace.
The environmental campaign group has published (June 11) a report entitled â€˜Silent killers â€“ why Europe must replace coal power with green energyâ€™ â€“ which draws on research from Stuttgart University to model the impact of coal power plants on human health.
In particular, it assesses the health impacts of each of the 300 operating large power plants in the EU, as well as the predicted impact of 50 new projects in the pipeline.
The research found that the worst offenders among EU countries are Poland, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria and the UK. In countries with heavy coal use, the report claims that more people are killed by coal than in traffic accidents.
â€œThe Stuttgart University results indicate that in 2010, approximately 22,000 deaths were attributable to pollution from coal-fired power plants, and the researchers estimate that their lives were shortened by a total of 240,000 yearsâ€, the report states.
It adds: â€œThe estimated negative health impacts from coal power plant pollution in Europe in 2010 â€“ measured in decreased life expectancy â€“ was equivalent to the damage to health from the smoking of 22 million cigarettes by European citizens every day of that year.â€
Despite the negative impacts on health, Greenpeace says that European governments have failed to steer clear of coal and that coal-burning increased each year from 2009 to 2012.
Greenpeace estimates that this will have resulted in â€œa potential increase of more than a thousand â€œadditional deaths throughout the EU.
As a result, the campaign group is calling for coal-burning to reduce rapidly and for the development of â€œcutting-edgeâ€ renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to be brought forward.
It is also calling for all coal-powered power plants to be fitted with Best Available Control Technology, not just that which meets minimum regulatory standards, and for full implementation of the Industrial Emissions Directive.
It states: â€œThe European Commission must not allow the implementation of the Industrial Emissions Directive, which sets new air pollution standards in EU countries, to be delayed by years with weak â€˜transitionalâ€™ plans.â€