Coal Phase-Out Boosts Health: Benefits of Reduced Air Pollution
The province of Ontario began a complete phase-out of its coal-fired power plants in 2005, with all of them having closed by 2015. While the costly measure was expected to produce minor air quality improvements, officials predicted that the resulting health benefits would accrue $3 billion in annual healthcare savings for the community.
Realized savings can be seen in the drastic reduction of smog days in Ontario, down to just one since 2014. “Let’s compare that to 2005, when residents of the Greater Toronto Area suffered through 53 smog days while coal, with its toxic emissions, provided 19 percent of the province’s power,” says Vanessa Foran, president and CEO of The Asthma Society of Canada. “It’s obvious that shutting Ontario’s coal plants has helped clean the air; it’s also given a new lease on life to millions that suffer with asthma.”
More proof of the medical benefits come from an assessment conducted by Toronto Public Health in 2014. It reported a 23 percent reduction in air pollution-related premature deaths in the city between 2000 and 2011, as well as a 41 percent reduction in related hospital admissions during the same period.
This article appears in the July 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.