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February 21, 2012

Assessment of impact of 88 coal plants on health

Estimating the Health Impacts of Coal-Fired Power Plants Receiving International Financing (9 pages) Of the 88 coal plants and companies considered in this report, 57% of those in High and Upper middle income countries used (flue-gas desulfurization) FGD compared to only 30% of those in Lower-middle and Low income countries. Theoretically, if all of the 88 plants and companies used FGD technology, the overall annual mortality total would drop to 2710 deaths. As an example of the importance of FGD for a single plant, if the Tata Mundra Ultra Mega coal plant installed and activated FGD technology (as it does not currently utilize FGD), its attributable mortality burden would drop from 250 annual deaths to 100 annual deaths.

We estimate that between roughly 6000 and 10,700 annual deaths from heart ailments, respiratory disease and lung cancer can be attributed to the 88 coal fired power plants and companies receiving public international financing.

This range of estimated mortality reflects different assumptions regarding use of air pollution control technologies in plants for which this information was not obtainable. Air pollution from coal-fired power plants is also associated with other health outcomes, including infant deaths, asthma and other lung diseases.

Estimates of the number of people experiencing these additional health outcomes were not made in this study, as the necessary data from the countries where the power plants are located were not available. This suggests that the deaths estimated here represent only a portion of a larger overall health burden related to air pollution from these power plants.

While most new power plants in both developed and less-developed countries have some modern pollution controls, such as electrostatic precipitators (ESPs), use of flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) is relatively rare in the less-developed countries. When utilized on plants that otherwise do not remove large amounts of sulfur from their emissions (e.g., through coal fluidized bed techniques), FGD can reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 90%, resulting in substantial human health risk reductions






The number of deaths estimated here from fine particle–associated cardiopulmonary causes and lung cancer represent only a fraction of the total mortality and morbidity likely to be associated with these power plants. This estimate does not include infant mortality, cases of chronic bronchitis or asthma, adverse reproductive outcomes or other health outcomes that have been associated with coal-fired power plant pollution. It also does not include the health effects of other air pollutants, including ozone smog, mercury and other metals.

In addition, these estimates do not include health effects occurring outside of a 1000 kilometer radius, which are likely to be lower than within that radius but are still nonnegligible (Greco et al., 2007). Thus, these results can be considered conservative estimates of these 88 coal plant’s total impact on health.



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