Killer coal: Study says 3429 NSW people will die

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Vales Point Power Station, Image: Webaware

A study commissioned by the Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) has found that air pollution produced by New South Wales coal-fired power stations cause 279 deaths in the state every year.

The study undertaken by epidemiologist Dr Benjamin Ewald looked at the health impacts of fine particle air pollution, or PM2.5, from coal-powered stations in New South Wales and found that pollution from the plants kills 279 people each year, 233 babies are born with a low birth weight and 369 people develop Type 2 diabetes.

The study argues air pollution from burning coal for power kills people through stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.

“It’s shocking to think that based on the current operating life of the five power stations, the air pollution they produce will kill 3,429 more people,” Dr Ben Ewald said.

“As a Newcastle doctor, I knew that air pollution from coal fired power stations is harming local communities.

“But as a researcher, I never imagined that the scale of their impact would be so severe.

“Literally hundreds of people are dying premature deaths every year because of coal-fired power.”

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There are five coal-fired power stations in NSW – Bayswater and Liddell in the Upper Hunter Valley, Eraring and Vales Point on the Central Coast, and Mount Piper near Lithgow.

The study coincides with the review of pollution licences for the Vales Point, Eraring and Mt Piper power stations.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, EnergyAustralia called the study “inaccurate”, and yet to be formally peer-reviewed.

“We strongly reject the implication that our operations pose unacceptable risks to human health,” a spokesman said, adding the paper was “needlessly upsetting for the community”.

Related article: NSW Govt launches plan to scale back coal

A New South Wales Health spokesperson also said the report requires further scrutiny.

An AGL spokesman said the company was committed to improving its plants performance, and said both complied “with environmental laws and environment protection licence conditions set by the [EPA].”

The report comes as the Greens proposed a ban on coal by 2030, with Greens leader Adam Bandt saying, “coal kills”.

Dr Ben Ewald is a GP in Newcastle and a Senior Lecturer at University of Newcastle School of Medicine and Public Health.

Read the full study here.

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