Burning coal kills around 1,600 people a year, according to statistics that appear in a report by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).
Published in partnership with Greenpeace, the HEAL report says that burning coal in the UK alone causes 1,600 premature deaths, 68,000 additional days of medication, 363,266 working days lost and more than a million incidents of lower respiratory symptoms.
It estimates that this costs the UK economy between £1 billion and £3 billion every year.
The study comes ahead of a House of Lords vote on an amendment to the energy bill on Wednesday. Lib Dem and Labour peers defeated the government last month in voting to close a loophole that allows coal power stations to avoid applying the emissions performance standard (EPS) to cut their carbon emissions.
The report adds further pressure on politicians to act in order to cut air pollution, particularly from manmade sources. Last month, the World Bank said that cutting air pollutants could save millions of lives every year.
Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, said, “The health of people around the world will improve greatly if we reduce emissions of black carbon and methane. Limiting these emissions also will be an important contributor to the fight against climate change.”
Commenting on the HEAL report published on Monday, Genon Jensen, executive director of HEAL, said, “Rapidly growing evidence of how coal affects air pollution and our health is pushing this issue on to centre stage in the energy debate.
“Our report has had a great response from energy ministers and health professionals who are increasingly aware that coal is costly for public health.”
She added, “The time is now ripe to bring the health facts and figures into national debates and cost assessments. Wednesday’s vote offers a unique opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Prof Paul Wilkinson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) said, “The external costs to health from coal power generation are among the largest of any form of electricity production, and reflect a substantial current public health burden. The costs of reducing greenhouse gases by reducing coal powered generation would be partially paid back because of lower health costs.”
MPs will vote on the amendment on Wednesday.