Fine particulate matter is found to be verified as very much so deadlier than thought. The Health Effects Institute of Cambridge, MA released a study Wednesday showing the impacts of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns is deadlier than thought and requires more regulation. The EPA has been regulating PM2.5 since 1997, but under the Bush Administration declined to review new studies. The current EPA under Lisa Jackson is examining whether a new PM standard is needed. Many studies show the threshold should be set at around 20 nanometers, a bout a 30th the size of a human hair.
In 116 cities around the country, heart attack risks increased from 12% to 24% in areas with elevated fine PM. The analysis covers 350,000 people over 18 years, with another 150,000 added in recent years. The study was undertaken by the University of Ottawa for the Health Effects Institute. Fine PM or soot comes from coal power plants, diesel and gasoline, car tires and oil refineries. Low sulfur, clean diesel with a three way catalyst and a particulate matter trap emit 90% less PM than untreated diesel.
Micro fine PM penetrates the lungs deeply. Micro fine Particulate Matter as small as 30 times that of a human hair adhere very small micro fine air toxics or carcinogens into the body. PM also causes asthma in both urban and suburban areas. It elevates the risk of pre-mature death from those suffering cardiopulmonary hearth disease and lung problems. It is a problem for the young, the elderly, outdoor works, people with asthma, and people with heart and lung disease. The government values the life of a person at $6 million. The cost of preventing pre-mature mortality is cost effective and has prevented hundreds of thousands of pre-mature fatalities.
Old coal plants are the biggest problem all over the nation and world. Besides causing Climate Change old coal fired plants pose a public health risk to immediate local environs and are extremely uneconomical and inefficient. The 85 year old Crawford Generating Station in Little Village Chicago, a Mexican community, is an example. The Fisk Generating Station 6 miles away, built in 1903 is another example. These plants produce high, local concentration of PM2.5, a very harmful lung carcinogen.
Many public health officials say Fisk and Crawford are poster children of Clean Air and Climate Change needs for reform. These legacy plants were exempted by the Clean Air Act of 1977 from being required to use the Best Available Control Technology (BACT).
Brian Urbaszewski Director of the Environmental Health Programs at the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago said, “What we’re dealing with here is the Cuban auto fleet – a bunch of facilities built in the 1950’s and 1960’s that are continuing to be rebuilt over and over That is not the way the law was intended to work.”
Proponents of closing Crawford and Fisk hope that the current Climate Change Bill before Congress will force the 2 plants to close. The Climate Change Bill could raise the cost of building new power plants, giving reason to utilities to squeeze out more production from inefficient, old, dirty power plants. The Waxman / Markey bill puts no limits on existing carbon producing plants.
Power plants produce ground level ozone and PM2.5 both powerful lung irritants, especially for the elderly, young, outdoor workers, and people with asthma and cardio-pulmonary heart-lung diseases. Fisk and Crawford are a public health hazard. If Waxman / Markey or some version of it passes the House and Senate, Fisk and Crawford most likely will close, long over due.
For more on the author go to AirQualityTrends.com