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Mortality Increased With Exposure to Coal Fine Particulate Matter

1 μg/m3 increase in annual average coal PM2.5 associated with a 1.12 percent increase in all-cause mortality

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 27, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) resulting from coal electricity-generating unit (EGU) sulfur dioxide emissions (coal PM2.5) is associated with 2.1 times greater mortality than exposure to PM2.5 from other sources, according to a study published online Nov. 23 in Science.

Lucas Henneman, Ph.D., from George Mason University Volgenau School of Engineering in Fairfax, Virginia, and colleagues estimated the number of deaths attributable to coal PM2.5 from 480 coal EGUs from 1999 to 2020 using individual-level Medicare death records representing 650 million person-years.

The researchers found that a 1 μg/m3 increase in annual average coal PM2.5 was associated with a 1.12 percent increase in all-cause mortality; the mortality risk was 2.1 times higher with exposure to coal PM2.5 versus exposure to PM2.5 from all other sources. Overall, 460,000 deaths were attributable to coal PM2.5, representing 25 and 7 percent of all PM2.5-related Medicare deaths before 2009 and after 2012, respectively.

“PM2.5 from coal has been treated as if it’s just another air pollutant. But it’s much more harmful than we thought, and its mortality burden has been seriously underestimated,” Henneman said in a statement. “These findings can help policymakers and regulators identify cost-effective solutions for cleaning up the country’s air; for example, by requiring emissions controls or encouraging utilities to use other energy sources, like renewables.”

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