This report ranks cities in Michigan and across the country for the number of days when the air was unhealthy to breathe due to smog pollution last year and this summer, and includes new data showing that the problem is even worse than the public thought. The research shows that on six additional days last year, Detroit-area residents were exposed to smog levels that a national scientific panel has found to be dangerous to breathe. Yet, because of outdated federal air quality rules, those at risk were never alerted to unhealthy air levels.
When power plants burn coal, oil or gas, they create the ingredients for ground-level ozone pollution, one of the main components of “smog” pollution. Especially on hot summer days, across wide areas of the United States, ozone pollution reaches levels that are unhealthy to breathe, putting our lives at risk. In 2009, U.S. power plants emitted more than 1.9 million tons of ozone-forming nitrogen oxide pollution into the air.
Solar water heating has the potential to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels and curb pollution that causes global warming and respiratory problems. By taking advantage of America’s full potential to produce hot water for homes and businesses from solar energy, the nation could reduce natural gas consumption by 2.5 percent and electricity use by nearly one percent, while avoiding 52 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution per year—equivalent to emissions from 13 coal-fired power plants or 9.9 million cars.
The agribusiness lobby is well known as one of the most powerful in Washington, D.C., and many states. Less well known is the fact that big agribusiness interests are among the largest roadblocks to cleaner water for the American people.
Our dependence on oil and coal-fired power plants has broad detrimental impacts on our health and our environment. Power plants represent America’s single biggest source of air pollution, affecting our waterways, destroying ecosystems, and polluting the air we breathe. Pollution from coal-fired power plants in particular contributes to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the United States: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic respiratory diseases.
Environment Michigan Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.