The Dirty Truth About Coal

  • Burning coal releases toxic mercury that rains down onto rivers and streams and contaminates fish. The pollution then makes its way into our bodies when we eat the fish. Mercury is especially dangerous to pregnant women and young children because it’s a powerful neurotoxin that can damage the brain and nervous system — causing developmental problems and learning disabilities.

  • In the U.S., 1 out of 10 children suffers from asthma. It is the number-one illness that causes kids to miss school. Each year, coal pollution causes 12,000 emergency room visits and $100 billion in health costs. Half of U.S. families live in places with unsafe air. Pollution from coal-fired power plants creates smog, which can cause chest pain, coughing, and breathing difficulties. Smog can make conditions like bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma worse or even fatal.

  • Mountaintop removal is exactly what it sounds like: Mining companies clear-cut forests and then blow the tops off mountains to get the coal. They then dump millions of tons of waste into the valleys below — permanently burying streams, poisoning drinking water, and increasing the risk of flooding. In the past ten years, 500 of the biggest mountains in West Virginia have been destroyed.

  • When coal is burned it leaves behind toxic waste ash. This waste is dumped in thousands of sites nationwide and often stored in open-air pits, where it can spill or seep into the ground and contaminate drinking water. Living near a coal-ash waste site can be worse for kids’ health than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Check our map to see if there is a toxic coal-ash site near you, and take action.

Coal tracker

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