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Top 'Toxic 20': States With Most Air Pollution From Power Plants

New information Friday reveals a list of the top 20 states with the most toxic air pollution, which can lead to chronic asthma and cancer.

A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council determined that coal- and oil-fired power plants produce almost half the toxic air pollution in the United States.

The facilities that generate our electricity are also our biggest sources of air pollution, including both smog and acid rain, and also mercury, which rains down and contaminates us through the fish we eat.

For those who follow these issues, the results are not at all shocking to find that residents in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida live with the most toxic air pollution.

Other states at the top of the list include Kentucky, Maryland, and Indiana.

The study released by the NRDC is a useful reminder to the public that data about pollution in their communities is not going anywhere.

“Power plants are the biggest industrial toxic air polluters in our country, putting children and families at risk by dumping deadly and dangerous poisons into the air we breathe," said Dan Lashof, Climate Center director at NRDC.

"Tougher standards are long overdue. Members of Congress who consider blocking toxic pollution safeguards should understand that this literally will cost American children and families their health and lives.”

The study released this week shows that nearly half of all the toxic air pollution reported from industrial sources in the United States comes from coal and oil fired power plants. These are also the single largest industrial sources of toxic air pollution in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

The EPA estimates that the reduction of toxic pollution would save as many as 17,000 lives every year by 2015. Up to 120,000 cases of childhood asthma could also be prevented if reductions are successful.

New safeguards would also help avoid more than 12,000 emergency room and hospital visits and prevent 850,000 lost work days every year, according to U.S. health officials.

“Coal pollution is killing Americans,” said Dr. Lynn Ringenberg of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“It is America’s biggest source of toxic air pollution. Air toxics from coal-fired power plants cause cancer, birth defects, and respiratory illness. Just one of those air toxics, mercury, damages the developing brains of fetuses, infants, and small children. It robs our children of healthy neurological development and native intelligence.

Another report released this week by the Physicians for Social Responsibility shows electricity generation and chemical processing are at the top of the list for dangerous emissions.

This week, New York Mayor Bloomberg donated $50 million to help end coal power production. In March, the American Lung Association estimated that particle pollution from power plants kills approximately 13,000 people a year.

In another development, environmental and public health groups filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week in an effort to spur a crackdown on smog in the Los Angeles region.

They say a crackdown on ozone is politically challenging because it would require tougher limits on pollution from cars, trucks, ships, refineries and other sources.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, Congress established a one-hour standard for ozone pollution, a principal contributor to smog.

In 1990 amendments to the act, required the EPA to certify by May 2011 that air districts have met the standard. If the air is still dangerous to public health, then state and regional authorities must implement a cleanup plan.

In Los Angeles, an estimated 1 million adults and 300,000 children suffer from asthma, outranking 23 other congested cities.

The states on the "Toxic 20" list (from worst to best) are:

1. Ohio
2. Pennsylvania
3. Florida
4. Kentucky
5. Maryland
6. Indiana
7. Michigan
8. West Virginia
9. Georgia
10. North Carolina
11. South Carolina
12. Alabama
13. Texas
14. Virginia
15. Tennessee
16. Missouri
17. Illinois
18. Wisconsin
19. New Hampshire
20. Iowa

The study used publicly-available data in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The analysis, entitled “Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States” was jointly released today by NRDC and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR).

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