Air pollution is a very common problem that the world is undergoing. Due to the Coronavirus lockdown, many local coal power plants were forced to close. It has been visible that within the US city, there has been a major decrease in air pollution. Not just that, but a decline in respiratory condition related hospitalization can be seen too.
The coal power plant that is responsible for this massive POSITIVE impact is the one located in Louisville, Kentucky. Due to its close down, the atmosphere in the surrounding area has also improved.
Kentucky is well known for its top rank with regards to the emissions from power in the US! With its total shut down and the restriction of the emission of powers in other plants, the researchers were quick to jump and research about the impact it would cause nature.
The research was led by environmental health scientists from Columbia University. They measured the city’s air quality in the years following the closure and stricter emission controls.
These controls saw three coal power plants install ‘sulfur dioxide scrubbers’ to their smokestacks between 2013 and 2016 to comply with regulations from the US Environmental Protection Agency.
By the spring of 2015, the changes had already brought around a 55% reduction in the number of air pollutants in Louisville. And within just four years, the number of people requiring hospitalizations and emergency room visits for asthma attacks dropped dramatically, with 400 fewer hospital admissions and emergency room visits.
Additionally, those residents with asthma started using their inhalers considerably less within a matter of months. For example, in the year following the installation of sulfur dioxide scrubbers at the Mill Creek plant in 2016, researchers saw a 17% drop in inhaler use by asthma patients.
Joan Casey, lead author of the paper and assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said in a statement:
“This study was unique in its ability to measure asthma morbidity based on both hospitalizations and daily symptoms, and to leverage an abrupt change in environmental exposure to more directly attribute changes in asthma exacerbation to changes in coal-fired power plant emissions.”
The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Energy last month, with study author Meredith Barrett, head of population health research for Propeller Health, describing it as ‘the first study to use digital inhaler sensors to understand the health effects of reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants’
She added that the team hopes this evidence will encourage government officials to ‘support stricter standards in regulating coal-fired power plants and encourage us towards cleaner power options, thereby protecting the health of the people who live near these facilities’.
Coal accounts for an estimated 75% of Kentucky’s energy production, far above the 23.5% of energy nationwide that comes from coal and greater than any other state apart from West Virginia and Wyoming.
Hopefully, the study will make way for even greater improvements to be made in the future.
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