Thousands a year die from effects of pollution in NL: study

The Dutch government was sued after it decided to shut its coal-fired power stations. Photo:

Some 8,000 people a year die in the Netherlands from the effects of air pollution and 800 deaths are directly linked to coal fired power plants, Dutch scientists say.

The number was extrapolated from the findings in The Lancet Countdown, an annual study monitoring the effects of climate change on human health. According to the study, trends in climate change continue to be an ‘unacceptable risk’ for global human health and the same goes for fine particulate pollution, which causes respiratory disease, and CO2 emissions.

Fine particulate pollution is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets which can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects when inhaled.

‘It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many people die from particulate pollution produced by coal fired plants. The figures are an estimate but we are talking about many victims,’ physician Peter Blankestijn, part of the 27-strong team of international scientists responsible for the world-wide study, told broadcaster NOS. 

The main conclusions of the study are that climate change continues to be an unacceptable risk to health world-wide, and that too little progress in limiting emissions is not only putting people’s health in danger but the health systems on which they depend.

Climate change

The nature and extent of climate change will determine the future of public health around the world in centuries to come, the study states, and it is vital to raise awareness of the problems this will cause for public health care.

‘Our findings are also telling the medical profession to work in a more sustainable way,’ Blankestijn told NOS. ‘I see patients for tests they can easily do at home, or with the aid of a smartwatch. That means fewer trips to the hospital and less pollution. The hospital as a building will be less important for patients in future.’

The Dutch team supports the government’s pledge to close of all coal fired plants by 2030 but stipulates it must be held to its promise. It also recommends more support for electric means of transport. Some 1,150 people die from fine particulate emissions produced by traffic, the study found.

Cities must also have more green zones to help mitigate the effects of heat waves, the researchers said.

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