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New Report Measures the Human Costs of Coal

November 24, 2009

CHICAGO - Global warming may not be the only good reason to get away from burning coal for energy generation. According to a new report from Physicians for Social Responsibility, coal has deadly effects on human health. By studying the impact of coal pollution on major human organ systems, researchers concluded that the energy source contributes to four of the nation's top five causes of death.

University of Illinois-Chicago Medical Center professor Dr. Peter Orris says the study's findings are important to consider in a coal-mining state such as Illinois. Dr. Orris is spokesman for the Chicago chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He also said that the study highlights the effect of coal-fired power plant particulates on the health of people living in the surrounding area.

"Much of the particulates, that we hadn't paid a lot of attention to in the past, are in fact problematical and may be the key components of the hazard related to the particulates coming out of these plants."

Dr. Orris says the physicians' group is encouraged by the Obama administration's push for green energy practices and plans to develop renewable energy sources.

"Much of that is in its early stages and it will take some time. So in the interim, while we're moving in that direction, one has to pay a great deal of attention to strict controls on these exposures from the plants."

In response to the study's findings, Physicians for Social Responsibility has issued five policy recommendations for coal production and use. Those suggestions include a call for the end of coal-fired power plant construction, a reduction in fossil fuel power plant emissions, and the development of a way to generate electricity via clean and renewable energy sources.

The full report can be found at

Aricka Flowers, Public News Service - IL