The air we breathe

Wafting your way
Courtesy morguefile


Pennsylvania releases more toxins into the air from its 38 coal-fired power plants than any other state except for Texas and Ohio.

In addition to being our major source of soot and smog pollution, coal-fired power plants are also the largest contributors of mercury, acid gases, and toxic metals in our air and water. These toxins not only damage our environment, but they also jeopardize our health.

The American Lung Association calculates that in the U.S. alone, approximately 24,000 people die annually, and prematurely, from the effects of coal-fired power plant pollution.

Airborne toxins not only pollute our air, but they also end up in our water and soil, eventually working their way up the food chain and into the food we eat. Eating contaminated food, like fish, and breathing contaminated air can cause cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems. Other significant sources of air pollution in our state include emissions from cars and trucks, dry cleaning facilities, and a wide variety of factory outputs.

Although The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to control 187 different types of toxic pollutants to ensure healthy, breathable air for everyone, the standards are too often weak and not always met. To control toxic air pollution the EPA first determines the source of the pollution, such as power plants or cement kilns, and then determines what actions the sources need to take to help reduce the amount of toxic pollution they release into the air.

The EPA's standards are meant to ensure that power plants and other sources of toxic pollution implement the greatest reductions possible of the air toxics, or the maximum achievable level. Periodically the EPA must review the standards to make sure they continue to protect public health and incorporate modern improvements in technology.

The Sierra Club is committed to cleaning up our nation's air and reducing exposure to air toxics. From keeping EPA on schedule to fighting weak standards to cleaning up big polluters, like coal-fired power plants, we work with communities to ensure that every day is a clean air day.