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August 05, 2011

As Summer Temperatures Rise, So Does Deadly Coal Pollution

Smog As the Code Red air quality alerts continue during the heat wave across the country, many families face the fear of asthma attacks in a child or loved one, trigged by high levels of air pollution.

As a mom, I've been paying attention to air pollution alerts, and I've been cautious about letting my daughter play outside on Code Red days. One of the biggest sources of that air pollution is coal-fired power plants, which pose an especially immediate threat to our health on hot summer days when soot and smog levels are highest.

Burning coal for electricity pollutes our air with toxins that cause asthma, heart disease, and more. One of these pollutants is ozone, which is one of the key ingredients of smog. Yet many Americans still aren't connecting the dots between coal and the smog pollution it creates. So I took to the TV airwaves yesterday to spread the news and call for action. We need stronger air pollution standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Here is an interview I did on the morning news in Winston-Salem, North Carolina:

In the United States there is a 50% chance that your air is not safe to breathe - thanks to dangerous levels of air pollution like smog. Children are at greater risk from life-threatening exposure to smog because their lungs are still developing and because they are more likely to be active outdoors.

Even at very low levels, smog can cause asthma, reduced lung function, airway irritation and damage, increased respiratory infections, permanent lung damage, chest pain, wheezing, coughing, and even premature death - quite a disturbing list. In some parts of the country, the smog is so bad that the air is unhealthy to breathe on more than 100 days per year. This is just unacceptable - especially when we have the clean energy technology to make this pollution a thing of the past.

Smog irritates our lungs, triggers asthma attacks, increases emergency room visits and can lead to irreversible lung damage or even death. This summer, air pollution levels have been through the roof. The EPA is currently updating our smog standards, and we need to ensure they finalize stronger protections for our families.

Get informed and get active, folks. Tell EPA and President Obama that we need strong smog standards - it's time to clean up coal pollution to protect our health.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign


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