U.S. coal power plants killed at least 460,000 people in past 20 years, report finds

U.S. coal power plants killed at least 460,000 people in past 20 years, report finds

The Guardian reports:

Coal-fired power plants killed at least 460,000 Americans during the past two decades, causing twice as many premature deaths as previously thought, new research has found.

Cars, factories, fire smoke and electricity plants emit tiny toxic air pollutants known as fine particulate matter or PM2.5, which elevate the risk of an array of life-shortening medical conditions including asthma, heart disease, low birth weight and some cancers.

Researchers analyzed Medicare and emissions data from 1999 and 2020, and for the first time found that coal PM2.5 is twice as deadly as fine particle pollutants from other sources. Previous studies quantifying the death toll from air pollution assumed all PM2.5 sources posed the same risk, and therefore likely underestimated the dangers of coal-plants.

Government regulations save lives, according to the research, which is published in Science, as most deaths happened when environmental standards were weakest and PM2.5 levels from coal-fired power stations highest.

“Air pollution from coal is much more harmful than we thought, and we’ve been treating it like it’s just another air pollutant,” said the lead author, Lucas Henneman, an assistant professor in the Sid and Reva Dewberry department of civil, environmental and infrastructure engineering at George Mason University. “This type of evidence is important to policymakers like EPA [the US environmental protection agency] as they identify cost-effective solutions for cleaning up the country’s air, like requiring emissions controls or encouraging renewables.” [Continue reading…]

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