The Life Cycle of Coal and Associated Health Impacts
Published:02 Oct 2017
B. Gottlieb and A. Lockwood, in Coal in the 21st Century: Energy Needs, Chemicals and Environmental Controls, ed. R. E. Hester and R. M. Harrison, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2017, pp. 100-146.
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Coal-related pollution makes important contributions to four of the five leading causes of death in the US: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases and stroke. Diabetes mellitus and Alzheimer's disease may join that list. Every stage of the so-called mine-to-waste “life cycle” of coal use is associated with its own and often unique threats to health. Critical stages include mining, transporting coal from the mine to the site where it is burned, hazardous air pollutants released during combustion, and the disposal of coal combustion waste, often referred to as coal ash. In addition, the carbon dioxide released by burning coal and other fossil fuels is the single most important cause of climate change. Climate change is seen by some as either the greatest threat to humankind in this century or, as it has been called more optimistically, “the greatest public health opportunity of the 21st century”.