Silent killer: Coal pollution causes 22,300 premature deaths in Europe annually

File photo courtesy: Arnold Paul/Wikimedia Commons

File photo courtesy: Arnold Paul/Wikimedia Commons

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Thursday, June 13, 2013, 4:51 PM -

A new study commissioned by Greenpeace suggests that coal pollution is contributing to thousands of premature deaths each year in Europe.
"Acid gas, soot and dust emissions from coal are the biggest industrial contributors to microscopic particulate pollution that penetrates deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream," the agency writes.

"The pollution harms the health of babies, children and adults, causing heart attacks and lung cancer as well as increasing asthma attacks and other respiratory problems."

The report -- which was compiled by Germany's Stuttgart University -- analyzed the impact of the EU's 300 operating coal-burning plants as well as the possible risks associated with 50 new coal projects that have been proposed.

According to the study, countries with the heaviest coal use, like Germany, Poland and the UK, coal-related deaths may top traffic accident mortality rates.

The aim of the research is to draw attention to energy-efficient solutions, in an attempt to prevent "unnecessary" deaths.

"Coal burning ... needs to be reduced rapidly, to stem the catastrophic impacts of climate change," Greenpeace says.

"In order to achieve this, European governments need to set targets for green energy that ensure coal can be phased out."

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