MaryPIRG Report Targets Air Pollution from Power Plants

Maryland has the twelfth highest number of schools near coal-fired plants and the 12th highest number of children with asthma (66,400) in the nation.
On May 14, the Maryland Public Interest Research Group--MaryPIRG--release a report, "Children at Risk: How Air Pollution from Power Plants Threatens the Health of America's Children."

Coal-fired power plants, in particular aging ones, the report concludes, are especially significant contributors to air pollution. Deadly particulate matter, ozone gas, sulfate, and sulfur dioxide gas are released in large quantities as a result of failure by the plants to meet safe emission standards.

Those most adversely affected by such pollution are children, who tend to spend more time outdoors and take in larger quantities of air--proportionally to their size--than adults. Polluted air causes an increase in asthma attacks, neonatal deaths, and slowed neurological development and lung function growth in children.

The MaryPIRG report uncovered several high-polluting, coal-fired power plants in the state, three of which serve Baltimore City: the Wagner, Brandon Shores, and CP Crane plants. 1.1 million children live within 30 miles of such plants. Maryland has the twelfth highest number of schools near coal-fired plants and the 12th highest number of children with asthma (66,400) in the nation. These statistics, the MaryPIRG report charges, demonstrate the grave consequences of Maryland's poor air quality.

MaryPIRG and others are fighting to reduce power plant emissions. They are pressing utility companies to increase their efficiency of energy use and to adopt alternative energy sources such as solar or wind power.

One effort toward cleaner air is a pollution-reduction bill that has been introduced in the State Senate by Sen. Jim Jeffords. The "Clean Power Act" bill calls for a reduction of mercury, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide production by the power plants.

MaryPIRG suggests that parents monitor the "ozone smog forecast" and keep children inside during especially smog-filled days, and use air-conditioning at such times. The organization also urges parents to take an active political stance against power plant-related pollution.

Among those attending a press conference about the report was Dr. Lorne Garretson, a pediatrician/toxicologist, Dr. Peter Bielenson, Baltimore City's health commissioner, Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran, Jr., Dan Shawhan, MaryPIRG energy program coordinator, and a parent and child with asthma.

For the full report, visit the MaryPIRG website.

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This story was published on July 3, 2002.