Coal Plants Cause Thousands of Deaths in Eastern EuropeReading Time: 2 minutes
In the last three years only, 19,000 deaths have been linked to coal-power plant-related air pollution in the Western Balkans – according to a fresh study co-authored by the CEE Bankwatch Network and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. The report focuses on how Western Balkan coal plants breach air pollution laws and proposes solutions for governments on how to tackle the issue in order to protect the health of European citizens.
Over 7000 deaths inside the EU and 3700 in the neighboring Western Balkan countries are attributed to exceeding emission caps by coal plants. The report concludes that the worst affected by this are citizens of Italy and Serbia where annually about 600 deaths are linked to coal plants excessive emissions. Similarly, according to estimates 390 people a year die in Hungary every year from air pollution, while that figure is 360 in Romania, and 280 in Bosnia Herzegovina.
Besides deaths, a series of other health threats are linked to excessive air pollution, among them low birth weight, chronic bronchitis, asthma symptoms, and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Overall, health costs of between EUR 6 and 12.1 billion are estimated to have been incurred in 2020 due to the emissions exceedances alone from the Western Balkans’ coal plants – the report writes.
Beyond the health costs, the reports reveals that almost three-quarters of overall costs (73%) relate to people and countries inside the European Union (EUR 4.4 to 8.9 billion), 21% (EUR 1.3 to 2.6 billion) in the Western Balkan countries and the remaining 6% to other countries (EUR 0.3 to 0.7 billion). The latter costs are borne both at the individual and national levels: through personal costs for medical treatment, increased national healthcare budgets and reduced productivity (which exacerbates the economic impact).
Under rules adopted by the Energy Community, regulation wise, the countries, which have been surveyed since 2018, have been obliged to reduce air pollution from power plants. Still, some plants have registered at least six times higher sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels than what is legally allowed.