Stiffer air pollution regulations crucial, HSPH’s Schwartz tells congressional committee

Air pollution expert Joel Schwartz told a Congressional subcommittee on July 26, 2011, that new EPA regulations aimed at reducing particulate emissions from coal-fired power plants will eliminate up to 34,000 premature deaths per year. Speaking before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight, and Government Spending Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, Schwartz, —professor of environmental epidemiology, presented an overview about research on the dangers of pollution containing small particulates.

“Particulate matter is one of the largest avoidable causes of death in the United States,” Schwartz told the panel. “Particulate matter kills more people each year in the United States than AIDS, breast cancer, and prostate cancer put together. That’s a big number. We don’t know how to cure AIDS, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. But we do know how to put scrubbers on coal-burning power plants.”

Schwartz acknowledged that the new regulations—which require 27 states to reduce power plant emissions and are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2012—will impose significant costs on industry. “But,” he added, “they will also produce significant health benefits. That’s a really big deal.”

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Joel Schwartz: Full Throttle Environmentalist (Harvard Public Health Review)