Smog Sends 53,000 To
Hospital Each Summer
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Smog sends 53,000 people to the hospital each summer and triggers more than 6 million asthma attacks in the eastern United States, according to estimates released on Tuesday by clean air activists.
Smog created in the summer is called ground-level ozone, the main culprit in what environmentalists believe is a public health crisis generated by coal-fired power plants.
"Despite popular impressions, this is not just a Northeast problem," said Conrad Schneider, technical and policy coordinator for the Clean Air Task Force (CATF).
"From Texas to Illinois and from Georgia to Maine, and everywhere in between, people are admitted to the hospital for serious, prolonged respiratory distress due to ozone smog."
The national campaign against dirty air is a joint project of CATF, the National Environmental Trust and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
In breaking down the numbers in its report, the groups highlighted the national scope of the problem by noting Texas had 660,000 asthma attacks, New York more than 500,000 and Washington, D.C., 800 hospital admissions due to summer smog.
For years, Northeastern states have sought remedies to cut air pollution drifting into their region from Midwestern and Southern power plants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year told 22 states to cut smog-forming pollution from the plants by around 85 percent below 1990 levels.
A number of Midwestern states in turn sued the government, winning a court ruling to delay implementation of EPA's plan.
Curbing pollution is at the heart of high-level talks between EPA and eight major coal-burning electric utilities.
In July, EPA said it suspected utility plant operators had expanded generation capacity - and emissions - without seeking new permits required under routine maintenance provisions of the 1990 Clean Air Act.
The eight utilities could face costs running into the billions of dollars to correct the problem, pending the outcome of negotiations.
Separately, New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced in September plans to sue 17 utilities for clean air offenses. Action on Spitzer's threat was expected this autumn.