Annual cost of coal to health: 3.6 bln euros

The Brussels-based Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), which drafts reports on health-environment relations, recently issued a report titled andquotThe Unpaid Health Bill: How coal power plants in Turkey make us sick,andquot which covered concerns regarding the use of coal and its impacts on the public health raised by health experts and medical associations in Turkey.
Massive investments are planned for new coal power plants in Turkey. The HEAL report offers a compilation of scientific evidence regarding air pollutionand’s impacts on public health and how emissions from thermal power plants in Turkey play a role.
In the report figures and results of economic analyses on the cost of existing coal power plants to public health were provided for the first time in Turkey. The report — which associates premature deaths, chronic lung disease and heart conditions with exposure to air pollution caused by coal power plants — calculates that these impacts on public health amount to a cost of 3.6 billion euros annually.
With plans for 80 new plants, Turkey is set to become the third heaviest investor in coal in the world, following China and India. What the decision-makers usually ignore is the fact that there is a heavy cost of dependence on coal. This cost is the unpaid bill of damage to health. This cost becomes a burden to individuals, national health budgets and eventually to the countryand’s economy due to a decline in labor efficiency.
How does coal make us sick? There is a direct connection between exposure to air pollution and many diseases, including respiratory and heart disease. Coal power plants cause severe air pollution in Turkey, as they do in Europe. European respiratory disease experts describe coal as an and”invisible killerand” and consider it to be one of the most significant threats to public health.
HEALand’s report raises awareness on the issue by offering the following:
– A compilation of up-to-date scientific data regarding air pollutionand’s impacts on public health and the role that coal power plants play – The first and only financial assessment on health costs related to air pollution caused by coal power plants in Turkey – Evaluations from scientists and health experts concerning the use of coal – Suggestions for policy-makers and health experts on how to tackle the issue of the unpaid health bill
Letand’s take a look at the basic findings of the report. Emissions from coal power plants that are currently operated in Turkey greatly contribute to cases of air pollution-related diseases. The data given in the report indicate that the health cost of the 19 coal power plants currently operating in Turkey is at least 2,876 premature deaths, around 3,823 new cases of chronic bronchitis in adults, 4,311 hospital admissions and the loss of 637,643 work days to illness every year.
It is estimated that the annual financial cost of coal to public health is between 2.9 – 3.6 billion euros. These figures were calculated based on peopleand’s exposure to particles in the air. It is noted in the report that these figures concerned respiratory disease and heart disease the two most important categories of chronic disease in Turkey.
According to the report, changes in energy policies immediately begin to have positive effects on health. There is one particularly striking example — that of Dublin, Ireland — which suggests a course of action for the future. After a ban was imposed on use of coal in the city in 1990, death rates caused by respiratory disease dropped by 15 percent, while death rates caused by heart and coronary disease dropped by 10 percent in the following five years.
At this point, a vital choice needs to be made. The report makes serious warnings to policy-makers. Some of them suggest that the strictest scrutiny in the current legislation should be implemented for the existing coal power plants in terms of emissions. All environmental impunities should be ended for these plants, all incentives and tax immunities provided for these plants should be revoked. There is no need for new discoveries because what should be done is obvious to all who can see.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman