“At first glance, air pollution generally and power plant pollution specifically, would not seem to rank among the highest priorities for African-Americans. However, African-Americans
are disproportionately affected by power plant emissions because we are concentrated in large urban centers, suffer higher rates of asthma and share a historical bond with the developing world where climate change threatens already weak and overburdened economies. From this perspective, power plant cleanup is elevated on the long list of social justice imperatives.” The Air of Injustice, a collaborative report from The Black Leadership Forum, The Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice, the Georgia Coalition for The People’s Agenda, and Clear the Air
(See U.S. Dept of Health, Office of Minority Health)
- Coal-fired power plants produce 386,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants per year
- Coal-fired power plants produce 84 different hazardous air pollutants including:
- Acid gases, such as hydrogen chloride andhydrogen fluoride
- Benzene, toluene and other compounds
- Lead, arsenic, and other metals
- Radioactive materials, like radium and uranium
- Sixty-eight percent of African Americans (compared to 56% of the white population) live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant — the distance within which the maximum effects of the smokestack plume are expected to occur.
- Infants who live in highly polluted cities during the first two months of life have a higher mortality rate. High particulate matter (pollution) levels markedly increase the risk of SIDS and respiratory mortality. Since African Americans tend to live in polluted urban centers, this impacts us significantly.
These statistics are frightening and should give every African-American head-of-household pause. For all that we do to improve the lives of our children, how insidious is this quiet killer, that while we strive to improve our diets and the safety of our neighborhoods, the very air we are breathing is undermining our efforts. Legislators,unethical corporations and their lobbyists are deciding as a matter of policy that the human life nearest and most affected by these power plants are expendable and less important. And we, distracted by all of the other challenges that impact our day-to-day, allow decisionmakers to deprioritize our children.
In furtherance of the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed rules that would regulate toxic air emissions– including mercury, lead, arsenic and acid gas pollution– from coal-fired power plants. The E.P.A.’s proposed regulations will, for the first time, limit on how much mercury or other toxic pollutants power plants can emit. This is an important move toward cleaning up the air and making our environment livable for everyone, especially us.
I encourage you to know the facts: