South Africa | Report: Coal Plants Cause 2,200 Premature Deaths and Cost $2 Billion Annually

2017.09.13 infographic

Air pollution from coal-fired power stations kills more than 2,200 South Africans every year, and causes thousands of cases of bronchitis and asthma in adults and children annually. This costs the country more than R30 billion annually, through hospital admissions and lost working days.

Holland1These findings were presented by UK-based air quality and health expert Dr. Mike Holland to the Department of Environmental Affairs, members of the Environmental Affairs and Health Portfolio Committees, and to the Public Health Association of South Africa in September 2017.

Dr. Holland told decision-makers that these impacts are material, and urged that they be taken into account in future energy policy in South Africa.

Holland2In 2016, groundWork, as part of its partnership with the Healthy Energy Initiative and Health Care Without Harm, commissioned Dr. Holland to assess the health impacts and associated economic costs of current emissions of air pollutants from coal-fired power stations in South Africa. His findings are contained in a report entitled Health impacts of coal fired power plants in South Africa. In essence, the report estimates that the following impacts are attributable to air pollution from the burning of coal in South Africa:

  • 2 239 deaths per year: 157 from lung cancer; 1 110 from ischaemic heart disease; 73 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;719 from strokes; and 180 from lower respiratory infection
  • 2 781 cases of chronic bronchitis per year in adults
  • 9 533 cases of bronchitis per year in children aged 6 to 12
  • 2 379 hospital admissions per year
  • 3 972 902 days of restricted activity per year
  • 94 680 days of asthma symptoms per year in children aged 5 to 19
  • 996 628 lost working days per year
  • The total costs associated with these impacts exceed USD2 billion per year

These numbers exclude the significant impacts from air pollution from mining (such as coal dust), transport of coal, and contamination of water.

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