Public health supports Government of Canada’s push to accelerate phase-out of coal power
OTTAWA, ON – 2 September 2016 – The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) applauds reports in the media that the Government of Canada is pushing to accelerate the phase-out of coal-fired power in Canada.
“The scientific evidence on the health effects of coal pollution is clear,” said Ian Culbert, CPHA’s Executive Director. “Coal pollution has been associated with myriad health issues, such as cancer, miscarriages and poor lung and brain development in children.”
Coal emits a toxic blend of chemicals — sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter 2.5 (very small chemical particles which can be absorbed into the bloodstream), mercury, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, benzenes and a host of others.
The most direct effects are on the lungs, worsening chronic diseases like asthma and emphysema. But the evidence shows that the greatest damage is to the cardiovascular system; heart attacks, abnormal heart rhythms, strokes and substantial mortality are associated with both short-term spikes in pollution and long-term exposure.
“We know that all provinces want the best for the health of their citizens,” said Culbert, “but Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia currently intend to have power plants burning lethal coal well into the 2040s.”
“While the utility operators in those provinces reportedly oppose an earlier deadline that might result in an increase in hydro prices, they seem willing to accept the ongoing serious damage being inflicted on the health of taxpayers as a result of coal-fired power plants in their jurisdictions,” said Culbert.
The planned phase-out of six coal-fired power plants in Alberta is expected to produce air pollution-related health benefits worth approximately $300 million per year, while simultaneously cutting the province’s greenhouse gas emissions by 17%.
By tightening federal regulations on coal-fired power plants, the Government of Canada would be taking an important step towards creating the healthy energy environment that would protect the health of Canadians today and provide a stable climate for the future.