American Lung Association Applauds EPA’s Long-awaited Proposal of Health Protection Standards for Toxic Air Pollutants

Washington, D.C. (March 16, 2011)

The American Lung Association today applauded a proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will set new emissions standards for toxic air pollutants from coal-fired power plants.  When final, this proposed rule—required by the Clean Air Act—will protect Americans against life-threatening air pollution such as mercury, arsenic and other toxics linked to cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and even premature death.

“Today EPA is proposing to close a toxic loophole that has existed for 20 years by updating standards to protect Americans all across the country from hazardous air pollution,” said Charles D. Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association.  “Without these standards, toxic pollution will continue filling our lungs and more people will suffer—and even die—unnecessarily.”

According to the EPA, implementation of and compliance with this rule will result in the annual prevention of approximately:

  • 17,000 premature deaths;
  • 11,000 heart attacks;
  • 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms;
  • 12,000 hospitalizations and emergency room visits; and
  • 11,000 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children.

Congress first required EPA to clean up toxic air pollution from industries in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Coal-using electric utilities have successfully delayed having to comply since then.

More than 400 coal-fired power plants located in 46 states across the country release in excess of 386,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants into the atmosphere each year. The wide range of uncontrolled pollutants from these plants includes: arsenic; lead and other metals; mercury; dioxins; chemicals known or thought to cause cancer, including formaldehyde and benzene; and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride.

Those at risk of health defects from breathing these hazardous air pollutants include: infants, children and teenagers; older adults; pregnant women; people with asthma and other lung diseases; people with cardiovascular disease; diabetics; people with low incomes; and healthy adults who work or exercise outdoors.

Earlier today, Connor provided brief remarks at a ceremony in which EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson signed the draft rule. The rule will be finalized by EPA in November of this year.

“While we are encouraged by this landmark proposal, the American Lung Association will fully participate in the public comment process and will look for ways to improve and strengthen the final rule,” said Connor.

Speaking directly to the power companies, Connor urged them to install the pollution controls that some plants are already using.

“Don’t wait. Start now to save lives tomorrow,” Connor added. “I can assure you that no one will complain if the air gets cleaner, faster—and many will thank you.”

The new limits set in EPA’s proposed rule are based on the pollution reductions already achieved by the cleanest and best-performing power plants and facilities in the country, making the standards achievable and realistic.

On March 8, the Lung Association released Toxic Air: The Case for Cleaning Up Coal-fired Power Plants, a report detailing the dangerous mix of toxic air pollutants that flow from the stacks of uncontrolled coal burning power plants and the adverse health effects associated with these pollutants.  The report also discussed the technologies that are available for dramatically cutting these emissions.

To learn more about this issue or download a copy of the report, please visit www.LungUSA.org/ToxicAirReport.

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About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a Charity Navigator Four Star Charity and holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.LungUSA.org.

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1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) •  www.LungUSA.org