An eagle-eyed reader recently sent us to coalcares.org, which describes itself as “a brand-new initiative from Patriot Coal… to reach out to American youngsters with asthma.” The website goes on to promise free “Puff-Puff™ inhalers” to anyone living within 200 miles of a coal plant. We were shocked — finally, an admission from the coal industry of the health impacts they’re causing!
It turns out the website is an elaborate hoax. CoalCares is right to point out that those living within a few hundred miles of a coal plant have an increased risk of developing asthma. With statements like, “wind kills”, and promises to reduce “Asthma-Related Bullying”, it’s easy to see that CoalCares represents satirical comedy at its finest.
The hoax, masterminded by a prankster group called Coal is Killing Kids, came in direct response to public statements made by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company. Peabody and other energy companies have opposed government-mandated cleanup fixes, and have publicly commented that there is “a correlation between electricity fueled by low-cost coal and improvement in health, longevity and quality of life.” Although the UN has linked life expectancy, educational attainment and income with per-capita electricity use, Peabody’s claims break down when you examine infant mortality levels and life expectancy levels, actually showing a negative impact on health when you look at coal versus other fuels.
The fact of the matter is that coal combustion releases fine particles, which become embedded in lung tissue, triggering inflammation. Particulate matter notwithstanding, the pollutants in coal emissions include benzene, dioxin, formaldehyde, lead, arsenic and mercury. According to a report released in September 2010 by the nonprofit Clean Air Task Force, “among all industrial sources of air pollution, none poses greater risks to human health and the environment than coal-fired power plants.”
So what can we do about it? Check out coalcares.org to read some satirical criticisms of the American coal industry. Try sharing it with you friends, or posting it on your facebook or twitter. Most of all, just get the word out there! We can’t let coal companies keep making our families sick!