Environmental Health Perspectives (online edition: 21 February 2011) Julia M. Gohlke, Reuben Thomas, Alistair Woodward, Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, A. Prüss-Ustün, Simon Hales, Christopher J. Portier
Background: The growing health risks associated with greenhouse gas emissions highlight the need for new energy policies emphasizing efficiency and low-carbon energy intensity.
Objectives: Here we assess the relationship between electricity use, coal consumption and health outcomes.
Methods: Using time-series datasets from 41 countries with varying development trajectories between 1965 and 2005, we develop an autoregressive model of life expectancy (LE) and infant mortality (IM) based on electricity consumption, coal consumption, and previous year’s LE or
IM. Prediction of health impacts from an integrated air pollution emissions health impact model (GAINS) for coal-fired power plants is compared to the time-series model results.
Results: The time series model predicts increased electricity consumption is associated with reduced IM for countries that started with relatively high IM (>100 /1000 live births) and low LE (<57 years) in 1965, whereas LE was not significantly associated with electricity consumption regardless of IM and LE in 1965. Increasing coal consumption was associated with increased IM and reduced LE after accounting for electricity consumption. These results are consistent with results based on GAINS and previously published estimates of disease burdens attributable to energy-related environmental factors including indoor and outdoor air pollution, and water and
Conclusions: Increased electricity consumption in countries with IM < 100/1000 live births does not lead to greater health benefits, while coal consumption has significant detrimental health impacts.