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Health costs of coal power generation in Austria

HEAL, its member ISDE Austria and environmental organisation GLOBAL2000 presented a study showing that air pollution from three remaining coal power plants causes health costs of 194 million EUR per year. Their phase out should now be a priority.

The study “Effects of coal power generation in Austria” (Auswirkungen der Kohleverbrennung in Österreich: Gesundheit.Klima.Auswege) was presented at a press conference in Vienna.

The calculation of the health damage is based on methods validated by the World Health Organization. (WHO). The assessment shows that emissions of hazardous air pollutants including sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particles (PM) from coal power plants in Austria are linked to 120 premature deaths; 1.300 life years lost; 3.900 additional asthma attacks in children and 17.700 in adults; 110.000 respectively 130.000 days with lower respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath in children and adults; 110.000 days of restricted activity and 26.000 lost working days. Altogether these health impacts cost 194 million EUR a year.

Hanns Moshammer of HEAL member organisation ISDE Austria (ÄrztInnen für eine gesunde Umwelt) is especially concerned about particulate matter pollution. “Tiny particles called PM2,5 can pass through the regular air filter devices. They can cause respiratory and cardiovascular disease and have been identified as a risk factor for lung cancer.”

Coal power plants are also a major source of mercury release. Fish samples in several rivers in the country give rise for concern about mercury contamination that could make fish unsafe for consumption, especially for pregnant women. Mercury is among the ten biggest challenges for human health identified by the World Health Organization. Mercury is toxic for the nervous system and particularly harmful for children.

GLOBAL2000, ISDE Austria and HEAL call for the phase out of the three remaining Austrian power plants which would put Austria in a leadership position among EU countries.

“All over Europe, coal power generation is of major concern for climate change and the protection of health. The health costs of coal power generation and should be a greater focus of current policy discussions, including on the EU’s 2030 climate and energy package. Together with Denmark and Finland, Austria has the unique opportunity to lead the phase out of coal generation in Europe”, states Julia Huscher, Senior Policy Officer at HEAL.

Press release in German available here

Last updated on 14 May 2014

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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 »

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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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