European businesses and organisations lost five million working days in 2010 because of illnesses, such as asthma and heart attacks linked to pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to a new academic report commissioned by Greenpeace.
The new report Silent Killers by Stuttgart University, commissioned by Greenpeace International, calls upon the EU to halt the development of 50 new coal power plants and set binding renewable energy targets for 2030.
The report examines the negative health impacts of each of the bloc's 300 existing large power plants, and forecasts the impact of the new projects if they were to come online and concludes that pollution from coal plants resulted in thousands of premature deaths in Europe.
240,000 European lives were shortened in 2010, according to the report.
Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, said the report showed the urgent need for EU politicians to phase out coal, by approving new targets for renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.
"This year is supposed to be the EU's 'Year of Air'. Yet, Europe's politicians are not stopping the more than 50 new coal-fired power plants being built or in the development stage that will increase the death toll," the Greenpeace executive said.
As air pollution increases the risk of several diseases and health problems, from minor respiratory infections and coughs to recovery from heart attacks, the report also found that the EU lost five million working days in 2010 because of coal power related pollution.
While Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Romania, and the UK were found to have the dirtiest coal plants, the report maintained that all member states are affected by the pollution, as fine particulates, soot and dust travels across borders.
Modelling carried out by the university showed that the 50 new coal plants in the pipeline would shorten the lives of Europeans by another 32,000 per year, equating to 1.3 million lost life years during the 40 year lifespan of the projects.
"The coal industry will continue to have a licence to kill for decades. This death toll from coal must be stopped," Naidoo stated.