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Report: Coal Pollution Damages Human Health at Every Stage of Coal Life Cycle

November 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Coal contributes to four of the top five causes of mortality in the U.S., according to a new report from the Physicians for Social Responsibility. coal_group

The report, “Coal’s Assault on Human Health,” looks at the impact of coal pollution on the major organ systems of the human body and also considers coal’s contribution to global warming and the health implications of that (including declining food production, water shortages, heat stroke).

Pollutants from coal combustion – nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter – affect all major body organ systems and contribute to heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases, the report found.

Combustion exacts the greatest tolls, but the report finds health impacts at every stage in the coal life cycle. Coal mining leads U.S. industries in fatal injuries and is associated with chronic health problems among miners. Communities near coal mines may be adversely affected by blasting, washing, leakage from slurry ponds, the collapse of abandoned mines and damage to streams and waterways . Slurry injected underground can release arsenic, barium, lead and manganese into nearby wells, contaminating local drinking water supplies; toxic residues have migrated into water supplies at dozens of coal ash dump sites.

“These stark conclusions leave no room for doubt or delay,” said Kristen Welker-Hood, SCD MSN RN, PSR’s director of environment and health programs. “The time has come for our nation to establish a health-driven energy policy that replaces our dependence on coal with clean, safe alternatives. Business as usual is extracting a deadly price on our health. Coal is no longer an option.”

— Suzanne Bopp

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