Study ranks air pollution from coal and oil-fired power plants


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The most toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants can be found in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, according to a new study released Wednesday by the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The study, “Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States,” used public data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory, a national database of toxic emissions reported by industrial sources. Data on pollution control systems at specific plants was drawn from the EPA’s National Electric Energy Data System database.


Among the key findings: Nearly half of all toxic air pollution reported from industrial sources nationwide comes from coal- and oil-fired power plants, the largest industrial source of toxic air pollution in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

Those states include: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The states ranked in the top ‘Toxic 20’ (from worst to best) included:

1. Ohio

2. Pennsylvania

3. Florida

4. Kentucky

5. Maryland

6. Indiana

7. Michigan

8. West Virginia

9. Georgia

10. North Carolina

11. South Carolina

12. Alabama

13. Texas

14. Virginia

15. Tennessee

16. Missouri

17. Illinois

18. Wisconsin

19. New Hampshire

20. Iowa

California ranked 42 on the list.

“Power plants are the biggest industrial toxic air polluters in our country, putting children and families at risk by dumping deadly and dangerous poisons into the air we breathe,’ said Dan Lashof, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate center director. ‘Tougher standards are long overdue. Members of Congress who consider blocking toxic pollution safeguards should understand that this literally will cost American children and families their health and lives.” EPA officials estimate that reductions of toxic pollution required by pending federal standards would save as many as 17,000 lives a year by 2015, prevent up to 120,000 cases of childhood asthma, more than 12,000 emergency room and hospital visits, and 850,000 lost workdays annually. The federal standards are expected to be finalized in November.

“Coal pollution is killing Americans,” said Dr. Lynn Ringenberg of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “As a pediatrician for over 30 years, I urge us absolutely to support the EPA’s efforts to reduce the health threat from coal.”

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske