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Coal’s Assault on Human Health

By Alan H Lockwood, Kristen Welker-Hood, Molly Rauch, and Barbara Gottlieb - Physicians for Social Responsibility, November 2009

Coal pollutants affect all major body organ systems and contribute to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases. This conclusion emerges from our reassessment of the widely recognized health threats from coal. Each step of the coal lifecycle—mining, transportation, washing, combustion, and disposing of postcombustion wastes—impacts human health. Coal combustion in particular contributes to diseases affecting large portions of the U.S. population, including asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke, compounding the major public health challenges of our time. It interferes with lung development, increases the risk of heart attacks, and compromises intellectual capacity.

Oxidative stress and inflammation are indicated as possible mechanisms in the exacerbation and development of many of the diseases under review. In addition, the report addresses another, less widely recognized health threat from coal: the contribution of coal combustion to global warming, and the current and predicted health effects of global warming.

Read the report (PDF).

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