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Report: West Virginia Worst In "Toll from Coal"

September 13, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia rates as the worst state in the country in the "Toll from Coal," according to a new report from the Clean Air Task Force on the health effects of coal-burning power plants. It says the state had about 15 additional deaths per 100,000 population because of the effects on health of pollution from such plants.

Dr Michael Hendryx, professor in community medicine at West Virginia University, who has researched the health effects of coal power, says the likely health effects of air pollution from coal are added cases of common diseases.

"Those are cardiovascular disease, like heart attacks and other forms of heart disease, forms of respiratory disease such as bronchitis or emphysema, and perhaps some forms of cancer, like lung cancer."

The director of the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, John Paul, says this report goes to show that public health can be significantly improved by the reduction of emissions.

"Corresponding to the installation of controls, we see lower health threats, better air quality; so this is showing some tangible results, which should encourage us to get them all controlled and reduce their impact on health."

The report recommends continued enforcement of existing laws and regulation, stronger U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation, and new federal legislation to bring down the pollutant levels of fine particles.

Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky also lead in mortality risk, but California, a state with very few coal-fired power plants, ranks almost last.

The coal industry has sharply criticized studies like these as biased.

The report is available at

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV