Recently Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) released a medical report, “Coal’s Assault on Human Health,” which takes a new look at coal’s effect on public health. The report examines the impact of coal pollution on the major organ systems from the lungs to the brain. This report caught our attention since nearly 95% of our electricity in Tucson is generated from coal. According to the report, coal emissions contribute to four of the top five causes of mortality in the U.S. and are responsible for increasing the incidence of major diseases already affecting large portions of the U.S. population.

Key findings:

* The respiratory system is seriously affected by air pollutants associated with coal combustion. Ailments include asthma, lung disease, lung cancer and infant mortality. They also adversely affect normal lung development in children.

* Cardiovascular effects include cardiovascular disease, such as blocked arteries that lead to heart attacks, and tissue death that leads to heart damage. Coal pollutants also contribute to irregular heartbeats and congestive heart failure.

* Studies show a correlation between coal-related pollutants and negative impact on the nervous system, such as stroke. Coal pollutants, primarily mercury, also cause a lifelong loss in intellectual capacity and a reduction in IQ.

* Even people who do not develop illnesses from coal pollutants will find their health and wellbeing impacted due to coal’s contribution to global warming. Burning coal releases carbon dioxide, which is a major contributor to climate change and it has extreme adverse effects on health and wellbeing worldwide, such as heat stroke, malaria, declining food production, scarce water supplies, social conflict and starvation.

These stark conclusions leave no room for doubt or delay. We feel the answer is in education and clean energy sources, like solar electricity. Every month 239,450 pounds of CO2 are not emitted into the atmosphere, thanks to TFS customers choosing to make the switch to solar. It's numbers like those that reinforce the positive impact solar can have on our  environment and our community's well being.