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Coal phase out is not to be missed public health opportunity

Brussels, Belgium 5 July 2016 – Today HEAL together with Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, the WWF European Policy Office and Sandbag have launched a new report which analyses the health impacts for air pollution of all coal-fired power stations in the EU for which data is available (257 out of 280).

The joint report reveals that in 2013 emissions were responsible for over 22,900 premature deaths, tens of thousands of cases of ill-health from heart disease to bronchitis, and up to EUR 62.3 billion in health costs.

For the first time, the report analyses how the harmful dust caused by coal plants travels across borders and the effect this has. The five EU countries whose coal power plants do the most harm abroad are Poland, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria and the UK. The five countries most heavily impacted by coal pollution from neighbouring countries, in addition to that from their own plants are Germany, Italy, France, Greece and Hungary.

Coal pollution and its health impacts travel far beyond borders, and a full coal phase-out in the EU would bring enormous benefits for the health of people across Europe. The report shows that each coal power plant closed provides a major boost for the health not only of those living nearby, but also for those abroad.

Materials: _
Full report – ‘Europe’s Dark Cloud: How coal-burning countries are making their neighbours sick’

• Press release – ENDEPLTKLIRUNLFR

Info-graphics, sample tweets (in English and in Polish) and video of coal pollution spreading

Info-graphics in Polish

Polish Frequently Asked Questions on the Europe’s Dark Cloud report

Europe’s Dark Cloud Report in Poland (July 2016)

German summary of the Europe’s Dark Cloud report

Europe’s Dark Cloud Report in Turkish Media (July 2016)

Presentation of ‘Europe’s Dark Cloud’ key findings - Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)

Response - Professor Paul Wikinson, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Recording of Press conference, Monday 4 July 2016

Medical professionals support the Dark Cloud report – testimonies available here

“Air pollution is responsible for millions of deaths worldwide. Higher temperatures resulting from climate change will exacerbate the problem. The good news is that reducing our use of fossil fuels – including harmful emissions from coal - provides a unique opportunity to improve air quality and mitigate climate change thus protecting health from the greatest public health challenge of this century,” says Dr Roberto Bertollini, Chief Scientist and World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to the European Union.

“The external costs to health from coal power generation are bigger than for any other energy source. The costs of reducing greenhouse gases are partially paid back because of lower health costs,” according to Professor Paul Wilkinson, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

“This report brings further insights into the harm coal power generation does to our health. It shows us why everybody should be concerned about coal power plants. The harmful emissions from each single plant can cause significant health impacts and health bills. A full coal phase-out is needed,” according to Dr Michal Krzyzanowski, former World Health Organization expert on air quality and currently Visiting Professor, Environmental Research Group, King’s College London.

“The media has recently drawn public attention to car exhausts but other sources, such as emissions from coal power plants, are also very important. The ‘Dark Cloud’ report makes clear that coal power plants are a considerable source of air pollution. In addition, the report quantifies the adverse health impact and health costs of transboundary emissions from coal power plants for the very first time. This provides a further argument to phase-out coal in the energy mix,” says Dr Joachim Heinrich, LMU, Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, University Hospital Munich.

Last updated on 28 July 2016

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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