New Studies Show Pollutant Can Harm Lungs

by kespeland on July 17, 2008

Exposure to a key pollutant from burning fossil fuels – including emissions from coal-fired power plants and motor vehicles – has been linked more precisely to lung problems. The Environmental Protection Agency has reviewed the latest studies of the health impacts of short-term exposure to nitrogen oxides, or NO2. Those impacts can include respiratory trouble and trips to the emergency room. Children and asthmatics are particularly vulnerable.

However, the date by which the EPA must decide whether to regulate the pollutant more heavily or keep the current standard is not the agency’s choice. EPA spokeswoman Ila Cote says lawsuits have forced the agency to get its so-called “criteria pollutant” reviews on track.

“There are six pollutants that are considered the criteria pollutants. Five are under court-ordered schedules, one is not, and it’s also on schedule,” Cote says.

She says the EPA has not been able to maintain its regular review schedule because “…there’s been a lot of competing priorities.”

NO2 is of particular concern in the Ohio River Valley region, where most of the energy supply comes from coal-fired power plants.

(On the Web: Read the EPA’s latest science assessment for NO2 here.)

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