Eskom coal is a killer, new study says

Cape Town - Eskom is currently waiting for the Department of Environmental Affairs’ decision on whether it will postpone the energy supplier’s responsibility to meet the minimum emission standards.

A new study by groundWork has recently revealed that while many South Africans benefit from Eskom’s electricity, people in the Highveld are facing growing health issues and effectively are carrying the burden of Eskom’s pollution.

In 2007 the Highveld was confirmed as a High Priority Area (HPA) because of high levels of pollution in the air.

The reality is that the Highveld is home to about 12 of Eskom’s coal power stations.

GroundWork argued that 51% of the deaths that occur due to respiratory illness and 54% of deaths from cardiovascular disease are directly a result from pollution in the air

According to the organisation, Eskom is the main contributor of ambient air pollution and related illness in the Highveld area.

Professor Rajen Naidoo, from the University of KwaZulu Natal, said that pollution resulting from coal production does not only induce respiratory diseases but can contribute to cardiovascular problems and long term cancers.

Naidoo also believes there is an increasing concern on how the pollution will affect pregnant woman and the unborn foetus.

GroundWork criticised government's ability to regulate Eskom’s air pollution and the effects it is having on the health of ordinary South Africans.

According to the group, South Africa’s air standards fall below the Worlds Health Organisation’s regulations.

In June this year a report commissioned in 2006 by Eskom, published in the Mail and Guardian, argued that eight of Eskom’s power plants contributed to the death of 17 to 20 people annually.

Eskom disputed the report.

"We believe that the article is based on incorrect assumptions regarding Eskom's mitigation of environmental impact of power stations", spokesperson Andrew Etzinger said.

"The impact is significantly exaggerated. The study is not applicable and it is not accurate."

GroundWork in conjunction with Earthlife Africa have now called on the department to reject Eskom’s calls for a postponement in fulfilling its emissions standards.

The NGO groups additionally want government to improve the lives of people living in the Highveld and address the pollution in that area.
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