Air pollution from burning coal has been blamed for a rising number of premature deaths and chronic diseases in Europe. A study by a non-profit a health and environment organization claims related health costs are huge.
The non-profit Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) on Thursday issued the first ever report calculating the health costs of coal-fired plants in Europe.
The report titled "The Unpaid Health Bill" provided an insight into the effects of coal-fired power generation on chronic lung diseases and a variety of heart conditions. The 46-page study claimed the burning of coal contributed to more than 18,000 premature deaths in Europe per year.
HEAL maintained there were up to almost 43 billion euros ($56 billion) in related health costs annually, including 8,500 new cases of chronic bronchitis and over four million lost working days on the continent.
Quick changes needed
"Our report offers the scientific evidence on the health impacts of coal that should be taken into account when determining energy policy," HEAL Executive Director Genon Jensen said in a statement.
The study added the findings were particularly worrying due to the fact that the use of coal is now rising again in Europe after several years of steady decline. Jensen urged EU officials to consider a major energy rethink.
The report recommended that as a first step no new coal-fired plants should be built and that Europe should abandon coal altogether by 2040 in order to improve public health.
"Opting for alternatives to coal would also put right a current injustice in which Europeans are made to shoulder the burden of an unpaid health bill caused by coal," Jensen argued.