Particulate Spewing Power Plant Smokestacks Public Health Enemy No. 1

Environmental Defense recently called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to swiftly curtail the harmful particulate pollution resulting from power plant smokestacks that threatens the health of millions of Americans across the United States. EPA is expected today to identify communities in the East and California with unhealthy particulate pollution levels. Particulate pollution is one of the nation's most pressing environmental health problems, associated with tens of thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks, strokes, reduced lung function, and asthma attacks. A growing body of medical evidence shows that particulate pollution is especially dangerous for children with asthma.

"Power plant smokestacks are public health enemy number one for their contribution to deadly particulate pollution across the eastern United States," said Dr. John Balbus, a physician and head of the Environmental Defense health program. "Particulate pollution is inhaled deep into the lungs and contributes to tens of thousands of premature deaths annually, heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks."

"Today EPA needs to take swift action to cut the dangerous pollution from power plant smokestacks or millions of Americans will be left gasping for clean air," said Vickie Patton, Environmental Defense senior attorney.

EPA records indicate that some 300 counties encompassing 105 million people should be included on the federal list of unhealthy particulate pollution areas, affecting the following 22 states: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Power plants are the nation's leading contributor to harmful particulate pollution, discharging more than 60% of all soot-forming sulfur dioxide released from all pollution sources nationwide. There are some 1,200 electric generating units nationally (at over 500 power plants) and less than one-quarter have installed scrubbers for sulfur dioxide, even though scrubber technology has been available for 30 years.

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