Ambient air pollution-related burden of disease in Germany resulting from coal combustion in power plants

Study objective:

Coal-fired power plants (CFPP) using anthrocite or lignite emit a variety of different pollutants which can effect human health. The aim of this research project was to analyse the emissions CFPP in Germany and Europe and to describe and quantify the associated environmental burden of disease. Emissions from CFPP and other sources were extracted from official German and European inventories and their contribution to air pollution in Germany was estimated. The attributable environmental burden of disease was calculated based on relative risk estimates for disease specific endpoints for PM2.5 from the Global Burden of Disease 2019 study and for NO2 from the ELAPSE (Effects of Low-Level Air Pollution: A Study in Europe) study, and for natural cause mortality from single- and multi-pollutant models for PM2.5 and NO2 from the ELAPSE study.

Specific objectives

  • To investigate the contribution of German and European coal-fired power plants to the overall air pollution in Germany, using a chemical transport model (CTM)
  • To measure daily air pollution exposure at schools in Berlin and Brandenburg
  • to quantify the burden of disease due to PM2.5 and NO2 emissions from coal-fired power-plants in Germany
  • to quantify the burden of disease caused by emissions in previous years and for different scenarios of reduced emissions (separate for anthracite and lignite)
  • to use multipollutant models to quantify the total burden of disease.

Study design:

Environmental burden of disease calculations, health impact assessment

Study population:

German population

Study period:

1995, 2005, 2015

Project duration:

2018 – 2022

Project Team Heinrich-Heine-University of Düsseldorf

  • Prof. Dr. Barbara Hoffmann
  • Dr. Vanessa Soppa
  • Simone Ohlwein


IVU Umwelt GmbH, Environmental Planning and Information Systems, Freiburg, Germany:

  • Volker Diegmann
  • Lina Neunhäuserer

TNO Utrecht, Dept. of Climate, Air and Sustainability, Utrecht, Netherlands:

  • Jeroen Kuenen
  • Richard Kranenburg
  • Ruud Janssen
  • Peter Coenen

University of Bielefeld, Medical School OWL, Bielefeld, Germany:

  • Claudia Hornberg
  • Michaela Liebig-Gonglach
  • Timothy McCall

External Funding

  • Federal Environment Agency (Unmweltbundsamt UBA) (2020)

Project Publications

  • Soppa VJ, Neunhäuserer L, Kuenen J, Kranenburg R, Janssen R, Coenen P, Diegmann V, Hornberg C, Hoffmann B, Liebig-Gonglach M. Burden of disease due to PM2.5 and NO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants in Germany. Abstract ISEE 2022
  • Diegmann V, Neunhäuserer L, Hoffmann B, Soppa V, Ohlwein S, Hornberg C, Liebig-Gonglach M, McCall T, Kuenen J, Kranenburg R, Janssen R, Coenen C. Untersuchung der Krankheitslast in Deutschland durch Kohlekraftwerke. Umweltbundesamt 83/2024. Forschungskennzahl: 3717 62 202 0. ISSN: 1862-4804
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