At first glance the Web site called Coal Cares appears to be a warm and friendly site promoting the coal industry. But a closer look reveals that it is an anti-coal site, started by an activist prankster group called Coal is Killing Kids.
The site, which supposedly offers free Justin Bieber and Dora the Explorer inhalers to children living near coal-fired power plants, highlights industry leader Peabody Energy's resistance to federal pollution reforms, according to a report from Wired.
The site writes:
Some environmentalists have suggested that coal companies should install an untested technology called ’scrubbers’ atop coal plants to make them burn more cleanly, reducing coal particulate exposure as one cause of childhood asthma. For our part, Peabody has decided that reducing Asthma-Related Bullying (ARB) is the single most effective way to combat public misperceptions of our industry.
Peabody fired back in a news release:
A growing collection of studies demonstrate the correlation between electricity fueled by low-cost coal and improvement in health, longevity and quality of life. The United Nations has linked life expectancy, educational attainment and income with per-capita electricity use, and the World Resources Institute found that for every tenfold increase in per-capita energy use, individuals live 10 years longer.
But experts say Peabody is talking out if its, uh, smoke stack.
“That relationship completely breaks down when we’re looking at the infant mortality levels and life expectancy levels that we enjoy in the United States,” said environmental health expert Julia Gohlke of the University of Alabama. “In fact, what you see is a negative impact on health when you look at coal versus other fuels.”
Gohlke's study Environmental Health Perspectives found that in extremely poor countries with high infant mortality and low life expectancy, coal-fired plants indeed improved health. However in wealthier countries, “increasing coal consumption was associated with reduced life expectancy and increased infant mortality.”
At least three other recent studies all point to coal pollution as a silent killer.
“Among all industrial sources of air pollution, none poses greater risks to human health and the environment than coal-fired power plants,” said the study by the Clean Air Task Force.
“Particle pollution does not just make people die a few days earlier than they might otherwise. These are deaths that would not have occurred if the air were cleaner,” said State of the Air 2011.