What's in the air we breathe?

Power plant smokestack

Courtesy Clara Natoli


Airborne particles of the following toxins emitted from Pennsylvania’s 38 coal-fired power plants, and emissions from dozens of other plants in Ohio and West Virginian is adversely affect you health. Exposure to the following particulates can your affect breathing, aggravate existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease, alter your body's defense systems against foreign materials, and damage lung tissue, contributing to cancer and premature death:

Sulfur dioxideand nitrogen oxides form acid rain, which damages human health as well as trees, crops, forests and rivers. About two-thirds of all sulfur dioxide and one-quarter of all nitrogen oxides come from electric power generation.

Carbon dioxide contributes to the greenhouse effect and global climate change and is a by-product of burning fossil fuels even when pollution controls are installed at power plants.

Mercury causes health problems beginning at birth for many infants. One in six women of childbearing age has mercury blood levels that are unsafe for a fetus. This means that more than 600,000 children are born each year at risk for developmental problems and learning disabilities.

Lead causes developmental problems in children and reproductive issues in adults. Our state is third in the nation in emitting 14,146 pounds of lead, which is 5.4 percent of all the lead pollution nationally. 

Arsenic: causes to a variety of health problems, including cancer. Pennsylvania power plants emit 18,826 pounds of toxic arsenic and rank number one for arsenic air emissions across the nation. 

Chromium causes respiratory tract damage and some cancers. Pennsylvania annually emits 41,750 pounds of chromium and ranks third nationally for chromium emissions.

Dioxin causes a variety of health problems, including endocrine disruption and damage to developing fetuses.  Nationally, Pennsylvania is No. 2 for releases of dioxin into the air.