Recent study shows health impacts of coal felt by local communities

A recent study revealed that communities in the Philippines hosting coal-fired power plants are already experiencing negative impacts on their health, environmental conditions, economic situation, and over-all wellbeing.

Led by Dr. Freddie Obligacion, formerly of Ohio State University in the United States, the qualitative research study demonstrated that local residents living near coal plants have perceived marked decline in various aspects of their daily living – from before the coal plant was constructed up to the ongoing operations at present.

The study covered randomly sampled 410 households out of the 3,000 living near coal-fired power plants in Masinloc, Zambales; Calaca, Batangas; Mariveles, Bataan; and La Paz district, Iloilo City. 

Health is one of the key areas examined in the study. Some of the major findings are as follows:

  • 80% of the respondents believed that they had better quality of life prior to the installation of coal-plant. 
  • 77% of the respondents noted that there were fewer cases of illness in the community during the pre-coal plant period. 
  • The most common diseases being reported by local residents are lung disease, asthma, primary complex, cough, colds, skin allergies, cardiovascular diseases, fever, infections, headache, and diarrhea. 
  • 69% of the respondents attributed these diseases to the presence of the coal-fired power plant in their community.

"We welcome this local study as it boosts our local advocacy against dirty energy such as coal and for a rapid transition towards healthy energy,” said Dr. Renzo Guinto, campaigner of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH)-Asia's Healthy Energy Initiative. 

HCWH-Asia's Healthy Energy Initiative with residents living near a coal-fired power plant in Masinloc, Zabales

“While direct health outcomes are still yet to be measured, the fact that local people attribute their health conditions to the coal plant is an important perspective that cannot be simply ignored," added Dr. Guinto. "People know their lives best, and so their perceptions and lived experiences need to be heard by our leaders and decision-makers.”

This results of this study provides solid support for HCWH-Asia’s public health-driven push for the phasing out of coal and other fossil fuel-based energy sources and for shifting to healthier, cleaner, and more climate-friendly renewable energy alternatives. 

Residents of Masinloc also complained of poor harvest since the operations of the coal-fired plant started.

The study’s results were launched during a press conference last July 23 which opposed the proposed construction of a gold mine that will threaten the biodiversity of Verde Island Passage. (For more information, read this Rappler article). A summary of the study was published here.