Killer Coal: Just how bad are the health effects of coal?

22.01.19 By

Like we needed another reason to kick coal to the curb. 

No matter how you label it, coal is always polluting. In fact, it is the most polluting way to produce electricity. When coal is dug up and later burned in power stations, it releases massive amounts of pollution, damaging our health and contributing to intensifying climate change.

Along with adding to greenhouse gas pollution, burning coal emits toxic and carcinogenic substances into our air, water and land, severely affecting the health of miners, workers and surrounding communities.

“The continuation or development of any new coal projects is fundamentally at odds with our health and Australia’s commitment to tackling climate change.” – Petra Stock, Senior Energy and Climate Solutions Analyst

coal mineImage Credit: Unsplash

In Australia, coal’s health impacts cost taxpayers an estimated $2.6 billion every year and can cause a range of health problems including lung cancer, heart disease and premature death.

In recent years, Australia has seen the re-emergence of the life threatening ‘black lung’ (coal workers’ pneumoconiosis) in Australia, which was thought to have been eradicated. Since 2015 there have been 21 confirmed cases.

There is a high probability that at least 11 people died from air pollution from the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire in Victoria.


Image Credit: “Morwell & Hazelwood – 9/10 Feb, 2014” by Flickr user Sascha Grant licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Other countries are experiencing severe health impacts from coal. In China, 366,000 deaths were attributed to coal in 2013 alone. In India, coal kills about 169,000 people annually.

In the United States, 50,000 coal-related deaths are recorded each year, with air pollution from coal-fired power stations contributing to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the US (heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic respiratory diseases).

Image Credit: “Young coal worker in Linfen (Shanxi, China)” by Flickr user andi808 licensed under CC BY-NCND 2.0.

“Why put lives at risk over a polluting and pre-historic energy source, when a clean alternative is ready and waiting?” – Petra Stock, Senior Energy and Climate Solutions Analyst.

Clean energy solutions are available now in the form of clean, reliable, affordable renewable energy and storage technology. The times are a changin’ globally as more solar was installed in 2017 than coal, gas and nuclear combined.


Image Credit: Unsplash

Kicking coal to the curb isn’t just a good idea for our climate, it will help save lives.

For more information on coal and its impacts on human health please seeRisky Business: Health, climate and economic risks of the Carmichael Coalmine”.