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How do we calculate health impacts and costs from coal? Here’s a handy visual guide!

HEAL has produced a ‘Quick guide: how to calculate health impacts and costs from coal’, to illustrate the methodology that we use to calculate what air pollution from coal power plants produces in costs to our health.

The World Health Organization, the European Commission as well as HEAL use this methodology to quantify the health impacts and economic costs of air pollutant emissions from coal power plants.

Air pollution harms everybody’s health, but the most vulnerable groups in society like children, pregnant women and the elderly are at most risk, mainly due to their age or medical condition. Air pollutants also don’t respect borders and can travel thousands of kilometres before pollutants deposit in ecosystems or in people’s lungs.

With obvious short term effects like for example an increase of asthma symptoms in children, the long term risks from being exposed to particulate matter (i.e. pollution) rise dramatically, for example in terms of mortality (6.2%, in infants 4.0%) or chronic bronchitis in adults (11.7%).

“Air pollution is a cause of premature deaths - we want people and decision-makers to understand how we calculate the actual numbers of those deaths and other health consequences of air pollution, as well as their actual cost to our society", says Vlatka Matkovic Puljic, Health and Energy Officer for the Balkan region at HEAL. "Even though medical charts might not state air pollution as a cause of death, the direct outcomes of air pollution on our health as well as their financial burden on our societies are real.“

The methodology follows the Impact Pathway Approach (IPA) developed in the ExternE Project (“Externalities of Energy” - damages to society that are not paid for by its main responsible actors). The IPA describes a logical pathway from the emission to exposure of the population, to pollution, to impact assessment and finally monetisation. It is widely accepted and used by scientists and is considered as the world reference in the field.

Check out the handy infographic here (available in English, German, Serbian and Macedonian). You can find the Unpaid Health Bill, for which HEAL used the methodology, on our website here.

Last updated on 3 August 2017

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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