Coal power plants are a major source of toxic air pollutants

Solar power is a more affordable and environmentally friendly solution to the dirty coal that pollutes the air we breathe.

President Obama called for “clean coal technologies” and other sources of clean energy in his State of the Union speech. Many environmental groups dispute the idea that any coal can be deemed “clean.” The American Lung Association reported that coal-fired power plants emit more toxic pollutants such as arsenic and lead than any other U.S industrial pollutions source.
coal emissions
By March 16th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to propose rules to address this pollution. Environmental and health care groups are advocating for strict limits on pollutants. On the other hand, the coal industry seeks more flexibility.

The American Lung Association, asserts that it’s time to end the “toxic loophole’ that has enabled coal-burning power plants to operate with no federal limits on emissions of mercury, dioxin, arsenic, acid gases such as hydrogen chloride and other dangerous pollutants.

The coal industry accuses the report of being one sided. A spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity insists most coal-fueled plants have already reduced emissions of key air pollutants more than 80% since 1970. They are also taking additional measures to further reduce them. The Coalition claims the American Lung Association report overlooks the advantages to using coal to keep energy prices affordable. 

Indeed, some plants already use available technologies to regulate toxic emissions, but more need to do so. The ALA report finds more than 400 plants in 46 states emit 386,000 tons of 84 different hazardous air pollutants. According to the report:

Their emissions threaten the health of people who live near these plants, as well as those who live hundreds of miles away. Despite the concentration of these plants largely in the Midwest and Southeast, their toxic emissions threaten the air in communities nationwide.

The process of burning coal releases chemicals into the atmosphere that threaten not only the air Americans breathe, but the water they drink, the soil they live on and the food they eat. EPA classifies many of these chemicals as “hazardous air pollutants” or “air toxics,” a category that means they are known or reasonably expected to harm human health or the environment or both. Hazardous air pollutants from coal-fired power plants include:

Acid gases, such as hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride;

• Benzene, toluene and other compounds;

• Dioxins and furans;

• Formaldehyde;

• Lead, arsenic, and other metals;

• Mercury;

• Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH); and

• Radioactive materials, like radium and uranium.

Source: USA Today



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