Coal pollution in Greece causes 1,200 premature deaths a year, study shows

Air pollution from Greece’s coal power stations causes 1,200 premature deaths a year according to a study by the Stuttgart University’s Institute for energy that was presented in Athens on Tuesday.

The report, which was commissioned by Greenpeace and published under the title “Silent killers – why Europe must replace coal power with green energy,” examines the impact of 300 large coal-fired power stations across the Continent on the health of European citizens. It also assesses the expected impact of 50 new stations currently under construction in Europe.

According to data on Greece, in 2010 PPC’s coal power stations emitted about 40 million tons of carbon dioxide, more than 11,000 tons of particulate matter, 140,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, and more than eight tons of heavy metals and other toxic substances such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and zinc.

Meanwhile, air pollution was found to have a “shocking” accumulative impact on public health. A total 260,00 work days were lost annually in Greece due to pollution-related illnesses, according to the report. The cost from disease treatment and environmental damage was estimated at 3.9 billion euros per year.

The report was unveiled in Greece amid government plans to liberalize the energy market and deliberation on the future of the country’s Public Power Corporation (PPC).

The international environmental group called on the Greek government to cancel plans for the construction of new lignite units.

PPC is considering plans for a new lignite unit at its Ptolemaida plant in northern Greece. If constructed, Greenpeace officials warned, the unit would be responsible for 100 premature deaths annually.

Despite the negative impacts, Greenpeace said that European governments have failed to steer clear of coal and that coal-burning increased each year from 2009 to 2012.