Fumes from coal-fired power stations cause 18,000 premature deaths across the EU each year and kill 1,600 people in the UK alone, according to a new report.
The study compiled by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said air pollution resulting from burning coal has a detrimental effect on the public health, forcing workers in the UK to take more than 350,000 days of sick leave annually.
According to the Brussels-based alliance, burning coal releases a number of air pollutants that can contribute to the development of various health conditions.
The study was published ahead of a vote in the UK Parliament later this week on an amendment to the Energy Bill, which would force coal-fired power stations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and produce less pollution.
"Rapidly growing evidence of how coal affects air pollution and our health is pushing this issue on to centre stage in the energy debate," said Genon Jensen, executive director of HEAL.
"Our report has had a great response from energy ministers and health professionals who are increasingly aware that coal is costly for public health. The time is now ripe to bring the health facts and figures into national debates and cost assessments," he said.
According to Greenpeace chief scientist Doug Parr, the vote on the amendment in the House of Commons is of critical importance. "If the amendment is voted down in the Commons, it could mean much of the UK's power comes from ageing coal plants for years to come. As these new figures show, this will have serious implications for human health," he said.