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PSR Decries Use of Children to Promote Coal

February 13, 2008

Recent advertisements and web campaigns are using children as the spokespeople to promote coal as an affordable, clean energy resource for the U.S.  There is no doubt that coal does and will provide a significant amount of the electric power in this country, but to utilize children as promotional tools for a dirty energy source -- that is reprehensible.

Coal-fired power plants emit thousands of tons of pollutants every year; among these are particulate matter, precursors for ozone and mercury.  These airborne emissions end up in the lungs and bodies of all of us, especially susceptible populations like children.

Every year, particulate matter spewed from coal power plants triggers hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and causes tens of thousands of hospitalizations, heart attacks and early deaths.  Coal plant emissions also contribute to ozone pollution another powerful respiratory irritant that aggravates asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases and which can lead to stroke and premature death.    Dr. Kristen Welker-Hood, RN, Director of Environment and Health Programs for PSR noted, “One study using EPA monitoring data shows that pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants causes an estimated 24,000 deaths each year.  This is unacceptable.”

Coal-fired power plants also are the single largest source of mercury emissions in the U.S.  Pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of mercury, which can damage the brain and cause learning disorders and impairments in motor function.  No parent would allow their child to be exposed to such danger; yet, across the country, as many as 600,000 children are born each year with increased risk of developmental disorders because of mercury exposure in the womb.

And, as global temperatures rise as a result of burning fossil fuels, all Americans will suffer because of increased heat waves, worsening air pollution and the spread of vector borne diseases such as malaria and West Nile virus.  To reduce global warming, we must reduce the carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. 

“This is the type of information the coal industry does not want the public to know.  As health professionals, we believe it is imperative to let the American people know about the primary sources of pollutants in their environment,” added Dr. Michael McCally, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

A serious debate about America’s energy future is necessary and important.  However, to gloss over the health impacts of burning more coal is a disservice to the American people.  PSR calls on the coal industry to pull down their misleading advertising and join the millions of Americans who want clean, renewable energy that is affordable and reliable.

PSR is working to prevent the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless those facilities have state-of-the-art air pollution controls, including strict mercury limits and carbon sequestration. 

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