The other reason to shift away from coal: Air pollution that kills thousands every year

PITTSBURGH, PA — “In a recent research study with colleagues at Carnegie Mellon, I analyzed how human health and the environment would be affected if all coal-fired power plants in the United States switched to natural gas – an extension of a trend that is already underway. We found that such a shift would have tremendous positive effects on human health in America. We estimate that low natural gas prices and state policies that move utilities away from coal are savings tens of thousands of lives and tens of billions of dollars each year.

Fossil fuel pollution is deadly

We’ve known that air pollution is linked to human health since Lester Lave and Eugene Seskin published their pioneering quantitative work in Science in 1970. They studied “the long-term effects of growing up in, and living in, a polluted atmosphere,” using economists’ favorite statistical technique – regression analysis – to look at a few locales where data were available.

In England they found that “cleaning the air to the level of cleanliness enjoyed by the area with the best air [in the U.K.] would mean a 40 percent drop in the bronchitis death rate among males.” Male and female results were about the same. Since few women worked in industry in those days, this finding indicated that the effect was independent of occupational exposure.”

Professor, Carnegie Mellon University

link to summary of study