BALTIMORE – Power plant emissions cause more than 900 Maryland deaths each year, according to a nationwide study commissioned by an environmental watchdog group.
The findings of the Clear the Air study, released Tuesday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, tie more than 30,000 nationwide fatalities each year to microscopic airborne particles released from power plants.
In the Baltimore metropolitan area alone, “More than 500 people die every year as a result of soot from power plants,” said Dan Shawhan, energy program coordinator for the Maryland Public Interest Research Group. Six of the state’s 16 largest power plants are located in or around Baltimore.
Spokesmen for two of the largest power companies in Maryland, PEPCO and BGE, called the study flawed for not providing the results of conflicting industry-funded studies that have downplayed the link between power plant particles and negative health effects.
“Clearly this group has an agenda,” said Nancy Moses, a spokeswoman for PEPCO.
In per capita terms, the study lists residents of Allegany County in Western Maryland as the most at risk. Additionally, the Cumberland metropolitan area in Allegany County ranked eighth worst in the nation with 46.5 deaths per 100,000 residents attributed to power plant pollution.
Maryland’s 28.8 deaths per 100,000 adult residents put the state in 15th place. Kentucky residents are the most at risk, with 44.1 deaths per 100,000 adults.
Researchers produced the fatality and other ill-health statistics by analyzing fine particle emissions from the nation’s power plants. The emissions totals were run through existing health models to determine an estimated number of deaths caused largely by heart and lung diseases. The effects of those diseases, including the number of asthma attacks, reduced activity days, and missed workdays, were also tabulated.
Shawhan noted that other factors contribute to heart and lung diseases, but that the health models used in this study were designed to remove those factors.
Other Environmental Protection Agency studies have linked microscopic particle emissions from a variety of sources – including power plants, automobiles, and industry – to ill health effects, The Sun of Baltimore reported Tuesday.
The Clear the Air study only looked at power plant emissions.
MaryPIRG is urging a 75 percent reduction in emissions, which they said could reduce the number of fatalities and health risks by two-thirds. The group called for better enforcement of current clean air laws, a reduction in consumption of energy, and promoted cleaner sources of energy such as wind power.
Clear the Air: National Campaign Against Dirty Power is a joint project of the Clean Air Task Force, National Environmental Trust and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. The study was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.