What Are the Disadvantages of Coal?

disadvantages-coal Credit: Smabs Sputzer/CC-BY 2.0

The primary disadvantages of coal stem from its adverse health and environmental effects. Burning coal produces harmful waste, including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphuric acids and arsenic. Coal-fired power plants are responsible for roughly 24,000 premature deaths each year in the United States, with 2,800 deaths from lung cancer alone.

As of 2014, annual health costs from coal producing electricity in Europe exceed $55 billion. Coal-fired power plants contaminate waterways, making water unsuitable for consumption. Thousands of coal fires burn worldwide. These fires are hard to pinpoint and cannot be extinguished when underground, often leading to surface wildfires. Coal can be cleaned or turned into a liquid gas to be less harmful, but the technology to achieve this has not been fully developed.