The extraction, production and combustion of fossil fuels causes significant health impacts. Whether it be oil extraction in the Niger Delta, oil and chemical refineries producing gasoline and pharmaceuticals in the United States or power plants combusting coal to fuel rapid industrialization in India and China—major health impacts—respiratory disease, cancer clusters and contaminated water sources-- abound in local communities and large urban areas where energy production is prevalent.
For instance, a recent report produced by the Healthcare Research Collaborative, a partnership between HCWH and the University of Illinois, Chicago School of Public estimated that coal combustion from China’s power plants caused an estimated 250,000 deaths per year.
This fossil fuel economy, of course, also is the major contributor to climate change, which carries with it a series of its own health impacts, which the prestigious British medical publication The Lancet has called “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”
Moving away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy sources protects public health.
A combination of greater energy efficiency and a shift to solar, wind and appropriate biomass fuel can reduce air borne particulate matter, groundwater pollution, the risk of nuclear pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, thereby reducing a series of health problems for local populations, as well as the global community.
Many hospitals, health systems and health professionals around the world are beginning to play leadership roles in this shift toward healthy energy sources, installing onsite renewables, constructing more efficient buildings, and advocating for energy policies that protect public health.