Public health officials say cutting carbon emissions could reduce health problems

Thure Johnson/via Flickr
June 3, 2014

Public health advocates are applauding the Obama administration's newly-proposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency's proposed regs would cut overall carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by one third by the year 2030.

Janice Nolen with the American Lung Association says the move has major indirect implications for people's health. That's because the way power plants reduce carbon also reduces other pollutants - such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide. And she says those can trigger serious health problems.

“They can shorten life, cause heart attack and strokes, cause asthma attacks, and now have been found - the World Health Organization has found they can cause lung cancer. So breathing less of those in is going to be a benefit.”

Nolen says that's especially important in states like Pennsylvania, one of the top producers of coal.

Under the proposed rules, states can submit their own plan for how to meet the new standards. The rules won't be finalized until next year, and face considerable opposition. Most are worried about how much energy will cost under the new regulation and whether the utility industry will be able to meet the demand.