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UK parliament urged to recognise health costs of coal

On 2 December HEAL released new figures on the harm to health in the UK associated with air pollution from coal-fired power plants. The timing of the release coincided with an important debate on the future of coal power generation in the House of Commons on 4 December. Unfortunately the amendment which would have forced an earlier closure of highly polluting, old coal power plants and which had the support of the House of Lords was defeated.

British coal power plants cut short the lives of thousands of people, equivalent to 1,600 premature deaths per year, leading to additional 68,000 days of medication, 363,266 working days lost each year and more than a million incidents of lower respiratory symptoms, according to an expert assessment commissioned by HEAL.

The new figures quantifying the health impact of burning coal in electricity plants in the UK are published as part of a wider project which shows the unpaid burden of coal on public health in Europe.

HEAL’s main report published earlier this year “The Unpaid Health Bill, How coal power plants make us sick” estimated total health costs in the EU at up to €43 billion per year. In the UK, the health costs are estimated at £1.1 to 3.1 billion (€1.3 to 3.7 billion) per year, ranking number six among EU member states.

Unfortunately, a vote on the energy bill which would decide whether a House of Lord’s amendment was upheld setting targets on greenhouse gas emission reductions for old coal power stations was lost and the amendment on an Emissions Performance Standard for CO2 from old coal power plants was not supported. The setting of carbon emissions standards is needed to hasten the clean-up of plants that are both important polluters and major contributors to climate change.

Nevertheless, HEAL’s briefing and press release influenced public debate on the Energy Bill vote and achieved a high profile in the UK media with coverage in seven UK dailies including The Guardian and the Sun.

HEAL briefing, December 2013, “What does coal cost health in the United Kingdom?”

Press release available here

Originally posted on 17 December 2013

About HEAL

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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