According to a recent Report by the Climate Institute and the Climate & Health Alliance, coal-fired power generation in Australia carries a human health cost – from associated respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous system diseases – of $2.6 billion annually.
The Report says that the mining and combustion of coal carries serious and well understood risks for human health, including diseases such as asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Pollution from coal power also affects lung development, increases the risk of heart attacks, and can impair intellectual development.
Coal mining is associated with cardiovascular, lung and kidney diseases, including pneumoconiosis ("black lung") which causes permanent scarring of lungs in coal miners. Coal miners die in greater numbers and suffer more lost time from injuries than all other miners. In comparison, renewable energy systems have fewer and lower occupational health risks than coal and nuclear.
The Report notes that the health benefits of cutting emissions by shifting to cleaner energy sources are even greater for people in developing nations. For example, almost three billion people in developing nations currently rely on the burning of biomass (mostly wood) and coal for heating and cooking. The pollution this creates is responsible for more than one-third of the annual deaths worldwide from chronic lung disease, causing the deaths of two million people annually from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and pneumonia.