American Lung Association: We must clean up coal-fired power plants and close the ‘Toxic Loophole’

In a new report out today, Toxic Air: the Case for Cleaning Up Coal-Fired Power Plants, the American Lung Association finds that significant action now is needed to protect our public health.  The EPA needs to be allowed to do its job to safeguard us from the dangerous pollution from these plants.   CAP’s Susan Lyon has the story.

With a new proposal due from the EPA on March 16 on power plant toxics, this report makes the case that EPA needs to proceed to better protect our health.  This report also comes just as the EPA is being attacked by the right and in a science-denying Congress, whose goal is to remove or lessen its rulemaking authority.

Our kids are being exposed to 386,000 tons of 84 dangerous pollutants currently ‘uncontrolled’ as they spew from power plants, with known deleterious effects.  These include:

  • Arsenic, lead, and other toxic metals;
  • Mercury;
  • Dioxins;
  • Formaldehyde and other chemicals known or thought to cause cancer, including benzene and radioisotopes;
  • Acid gases such as hydrogen chloride;
  • Radioactive materials, like radium and uranium.

We are currently heavily reliant on coal-fired power plants to produce electricity for our nation’s grid, but dangerous air pollution is yet another reason to work towards reducing our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

The report (pdf) offers several key findings indicating that the EPA needs to clean up coal-fired plants to defend our health.  These include:

  • Coal-fired power plants produce more hazardous air pollution in the United States than any other industrial pollution sources;
  • The Clean Air Act requires the control of hazardous air pollutants from coal-fired power plants, but absent new rules, no national standards exist to limit these pollutants from these plants; and

Charles D. Connor, President and CEO of ALA, urges that we cannot wait any longer to act:

It’s time that we end the ‘toxic loophole’ that has allowed coal-burning power plants to operate without any federal limits on emissions of mercury, arsenic, dioxin, acid gases such as hydrogen chloride and other dangerous pollutants.  The American public has waited long enough””more than two decades. We are counting on EPA to protect all Americans from the health risks imposed by these dangerous pollutants once and for all.

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3 Responses to American Lung Association: We must clean up coal-fired power plants and close the ‘Toxic Loophole’

  1. dbmetzger says:

    China has a plan to do away with coal plants. Going nuclear…
    China to Top Global Uranium Consumers
    The Chinese government’s energy policy is expected to push the nation ahead of the US as the world’s top uranium consumer. China plans for more than 60 nuclear reactors to be operational by 2020.

  2. Wit's End says:

    Air pollution is shortening life expectancy in Europe, causing asthma among children and chronic bronchitis and heart disease among over-65s. It is also costing a fortune. However, according to Europe’s Aphekom programme, there is a big difference in health between the residents of dirty Bucharest and those in clean Stockholm. The study lasted three years in 12 countries and 25 cities, home to 39 million people.

    “The figures show that, despite the various countermeasures, air pollution is still a major issue for public health in Europe,” said Sylvia Medina, who is a study co-ordinator and an epidemiologist.

    The researchers calculated the potential gain in life expectancy if fine-particle pollution was reduced to 10 micrograms per cubic metre as an annual average, which is the target set by the World Health Organisation. Fine particles go deep into our bodies, affecting our heart and lungs.

    The high concentration of many fine particles, largely due to emissions from diesel engines and heating systems, knocks almost two years off the average life expectancy of residents of Bucharest, and six months off the life of Parisians. Pollution in Stockholm is already below WHO targets.

    The study then focused on 10 cities including Barcelona, Brussels and Rome, and, for the first time, took account of the extent to which pollution may trigger chronic complaints rather than just exacerbate them. About half the urban population lives close to a road with more than 10,000 vehicles a day, and that fact seems to be responsible for 15% of asthma cases among under-17s, 23% of chronic bronchitis cases, and 25% of cardiovascular diseases among over-65s.

    Traffic over 10,000 vehicles a day is “fairly commonplace in large towns”, says Karine Léger, an engineer at Airparif, the organisation that is tasked with monitoring air quality in the Paris area. The average on the Paris ring-road, the Boulevard Périphérique, is 270,000 vehicles a day, and 20,000 amid the boutiques of Rue de Rivoli.

    The annual cost, including time spent in hospital and lost working hours, of fine-particle pollution for the 25 cities covered by the study is estimated at $43bn. “It is a high cost, impacting directly on the health service,” says Olivier Chanel at France’s National Research Centre. “The benefit from reducing average levels of exposure would be far from negligible.” Progress has been made for some substances such as sulphur dioxide, but fine-particle pollution is not improving.

  3. Edward says:

    Thank you, ALA.