Air Pollution from Coal:
3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary human cause of global warming--as much carbon dioxide as cutting down 161 million trees. 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which causes acid rain that damages forests, lakes, and buildings, and forms small airborne particles that can penetrate deep into lungs. 500 tons of small airborne particles, which can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility. 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx), as much as would be emitted by half a million late-model cars. NOx leads to formation of ozone (smog) which inflames the lungs, burning through lung tissue making people more susceptible to respiratory illness. 720 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), which causes headaches and place additional stress on people with heart disease. 220 tons of hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), which form ozone. 170 pounds of mercury, where just 1/70th of a teaspoon deposited on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat. 225 pounds of arsenic, which will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion. 114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium.
Waste created by a typical 500-megawatt coal plant includes more than 125,000 tons of ash and 193,000 tons of sludge from the smokestack scrubber each year. Nationally, more than 75% of this waste is disposed of in unlined, unmonitored onsite landfills and surface impoundments.