More than road accidents in some countriesGreenpeace International has commissioned a study on the impacts of the biggest coal-burning power plants in Europe from Stuttgart University, and its conclusions are troubling (though not entirely unexpected). Thanks to a sophisticated health impact assessment model, the scientists were able to estimate both the health and economic impact of the 300 biggest coal plants in Europe, as well as the potential impact of 50 projects still in the planning phases.
The top 300 coal plants cumulative cause an estimate 22,300 premature deaths a year, and the 50 new plants would cause an additional 2,700 premature deaths. There is also a cost estimated to be in the billions of dollars for healthcare and lost working days.
A total of 240,000 years of life were said to be lost in Europe in 2010 with 480,000 work days a year and 22,600 "life years" lost in Britain, the fifth most coal-polluted country. Drax, Britain's largest coal-powered station, was said to be responsible for 4,450 life years lost, and Longannet in Scotland 4,210. (source)
These are cause not only by particulate matter pollution (PM), but also by all kinds of toxins released by the burning of coal (mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, etc). And this doesn't even take into account the long-term impacts of all the CO2 released into the atmosphere by these coal plants...
The utility companies with the worst estimated health impacts, according to the report, are PGE (Poland), RWE (Germany and UK), PPC (Greece), Vattenfall (Sweden) and ČEZ (Czech Republic).
The Guardian writes:
Analysis of the emissions shows that air pollution from coal plants is now linked to more deaths than road traffic accidents in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. In Germany and the UK, coal-fired power stations are associated with nearly as many deaths as road accidents. Polish coal power plants were estimated to cause more than 5,000 premature deaths in 2010.
Of course there is a simple solution to all these problems. A transition to clean energy.