Toxic Air: The Case for Cleaning Up Coal-Fired Power Plants

View the full report here (PDF).


Coal-fired power plants produce 386,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants per year.

Coal-fired power plants produce 84 different hazardous air pollutants including:

  • Acid gases, such as hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride
  • Benzene, toluene and other compounds
  • Dioxins
  • Formaldehyde
  • Lead, arsenic, and other metals
  • Mercury
  • Radioactive materials, like radium and uranium

These pollutants can worsen asthma and lung disease, cause heart attacks and strokes, and lead to lung and other cancers.

Mercury is associated with damage to the kidneys, liver, brain, and nervous system and can cause birth defects.

Some of these pollutants are know carcinogens – or cancer-causing agents. Some increase the risk of premature death.

Different mixtures of pollutants can be much more dangerous than any one on its own.

People can be living hundreds or thousands of miles from one of these power plants and still be at risk to health problems. Many pollutants adhere to other airborne particles and travel great distances before settling (although people living closer to plants are at a higher risk of exposure).

The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 required the EPA to have sources clean up 187 different pollutants designated as hazardous. It is only now, more than 20 years later that EPA is putting these requirements in place for the electric utility industry.

Source: American Lung Association