Health groups call on province to phase out coal power

Doctors and health advocates launched a campaign Wednesday, calling on Alberta to phase-out coal-fired power plants.

Energy source blamed for deaths and asthma episodes

Maureen Patterson, who suffers from a lung disease, supports the coalition's anti-coal campaign. (CBC)

Doctors and health advocates launched a campaign Wednesday calling on Alberta to phase out coal-fired power plants.

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Asthma Society of Canada and The Lung Association took out newspaper ads across the province featuring a girl with an inhaler and the phrase, "Coal makes her sick."

Citing a report published in March, the coalition claims that each year emissions from Alberta coal plants cause more than 4,800 days in missed school or work for people with asthma.

"Coal is responsible for over one hundred Albertan deaths [annually]," said Beth Nanni with The Lung Association.

"These are huge health costs that Albertans are paying for with their health and with their lives."

According to provincial statistics, Alberta contains 70 per cent of Canada's coal reserves and uses more than 25 million tonnes of coal annually to generate electricity. The coalition says Alberta burns more coal than the rest of Canada combined.

The group claims coal is responsible for a number of potentially deadly health conditions.

Coal industry improving: province

Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen defended the industry in a statement, saying that Alberta was "the first jurisdiction in North America to put a price on carbon and introduce mandatory greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for all large emitters – including coal-fired electricity plants."

The health coalition is urging increased conservation and more investment in renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

It hopes its campaign will cause the public to pressure Alberta to take the lead from Ontario, which plans to become the first coal-free jurisdiction in North America, after all its coal-fire plants close in 2014.