257,000 premature deaths in just one yearAir pollution from coal power plants has gotten so bad in China that it often ranks as the #1 cause of social unrest. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that "life expectancy for those living in the north [of China] was about 5.5 years shorter — an effect due entirely to differences in cardio-respiratory problems, which is exactly what you’d expect if pollution was the cause." But that's just a relative measure; the life of those that aren't in the most polluted areas is also no doubt negatively affected...
To illustrate the magnitude of the problem, Greenpeace UK has created this interactive map (more details below):
Here's how to interpret what you see on the map:
Each bubble stands for a coal plant, of which China has more than 2,300 in operation.
The size of the bubble relates to the health impacts that - the analysis suggests - could be caused by illnesses brought on by the chemicals and particles emitted as a result of coal combustion in 2011.
Zoom in to see the locations of the individual plants and click on a bubble to get information on the tonnes per annum of SO2, NOx and PM2.5 emitted.
Each bubble is semi-transparent and the darker areas are where the bubbles have layered up because there is another plant – or several – nearby. The map shows the regional concentration of health impacts (indicated by premature deaths) from coal plant emissions.
According to a breakdown of the figures, the most severe health risks caused by coal power plants are in: Henan province, with an estimated 31,400 premature deaths; Shandong province with 29,800 premature deaths; Inner Mongolia with 27,400 premature deaths; Shanxi province with 26,100 premature deaths; and Jiangsu province with 24,200 premature deaths. (source)
All the data adds up to 257,000 premature deaths! And that's just for 2011.
Via Greenpeace UK