Relative Danger of Energy Sources


2. How many Americans (other than workers) will die this decade from non-CO2 pollution (particulates, ozone, etc) of US coal use?  
< 100          100 – 1,000           1,000 – 10,000        10,000 - 100,000       > 100,000


See the Pew Report Death, Disease and Dirty Power: Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants. Current estimate is that 30,000 Americans die yearly from particulates alone, or about 7.5 Chernobyls/year, from cardiopulmonary and respiratory disease, one Chernobyl every 21 months in Pennsylvania. There is significant cost to agriculture and ecosystems as well.

power plant deaths

While particulates have the largest health toll, there are any number of important pollutants from coal use. In China alone, coal use does billions of dollars in damage to forests each year due to acid rain.

The rest of this answer repeats information, more or less, in the answer to oil #3.

There is a connection between particulates and asthma. The Pew Report estimates power plant (primarily coal) pollution triggers 600,000 asthma attacks in the US each year, with an important cost to emergency rooms, hospital stays, and lost work.

Daily asthma presentations to the Emergency Department of Royal Darwin Hospital
and 24-hour mean PM
10 concentrations, Darwin, April – October 2000
particulates and asthma
PM10 are particles less than 10 millionths of a meter.

Check out your part of the US on a map of premature mortality due to PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 millionths of a meter) on an introduction to the health effects of various pollutants.

Ozone is responsible for 10 - 20% of summertime respiratory emergency visits in the US northeast and harms other animal and plants as well, particularly long-living plants such as trees.

Ozone targets alveoli, the oxygen exchangers, and the bronchioles.ozone and health

Bell, et al, looks at 95 large American cities and estimates 4,000 Americans die yearly from short term effects of higher ozone concentrations. The National Academy of Sciences calculates 30,000 lives could be saved annually worldwide by 2030 simply by producing less ozone by reducing natural gas emissions 20%.

Ozone harms Christmas holly.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) contribute to the formation of ozone. NOx also cause cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease, but can harm other parts of the body as well. Along with sulfur dioxide, it is a major cause of acid rain (15% to 25%). NOx harm the soil, with great cost to both agriculture and forests. One third of US ground level ozone comes from power plants, primarily coal.

World Health Organization estimates that 3 million die annually from outdoor air pollution (plus 1.6 million from indoor air pollution from the use of solid fuels such as dung, wood, crop waste, or coal.)

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