Harvard School of Public Health Report Quantifies Health Impact of
Air Pollution from Salem Harbor Generating Station Power Plant

Attributes 53 Premature Deaths Per Year in Region

Thursday, May 4, 2000

Boston, MA – Air pollution from two Massachusetts coal-fired power plants contributes to particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone exposure over a large region. Using a sophisticated model of how particulate matter and its precursors are dispersed in the atmosphere, Harvard School of Public Health scientists Jonathan Levy and John D. Spengler have calculated exposures to 32 million residents living in New England, eastern New York and New Jersey from these older plants.

Their report estimated that current emissions from the Salem Harbor and Brayton Point power plants can be linked to more than 43,000 asthma attacks and nearly 300,000 daily incidents of upper respiratory symptoms per year in the region. The study also estimated that 159 premature deaths per year could be attributed to this pollution.

The health risks are greatest for people living closer to the plants. Twenty percent of the total health impact occurs on 8 percent of the population that lives within 30 miles of the facilities.

The researchers also analyzed the potential health benefits of reducing current emissions to the lower levels that would be reached by using the best available control technology required for newer power plants since the 1977 Clean Air Act and required by the US Environmental Protection Agency as retrofit on some older plants. An estimated 124 premature deaths would be averted per year, along with 34,000 fewer asthma attacks and 230,000 fewer daily incidents of upper respiratory problems.

The report demonstrates the usefulness of quantifying the health impact of air pollution for setting standards and choosing cleanup strategies. Emission reduction strategies might include burning cleaner, lower sulfur fuels, equipping plants with air cleaning devices, substituting alternative fuels, and aggressive energy conservation programs. Quantifying health effects can provide further incentives for public expenditures and for policies to reduce energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution.

The report, "Estimated Public Health Impacts of Criteria Pollutant Air Emissions from the Salem Harbor and Brayton Point Power Plants," was prepared for the Clean Air Task Force, a non-profit environmental organization focusing on air quality, with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The full report (68 pages )is available here.