Coal mining has many adverse effects due to the different pollutants released from the coal-fired power plants. Since these pollutants "don't need passports,” they can reach anywhere near or even a distance away from the actual power plants. While coal mining produces the opportunity of electricity for fifty percent of the nation, this comes with many costs to the health of people, to society, and to the environment.
There are many pollutants released from coal-fired power plants, including heavy metals, affecting the health of everyone exposed to them. Sulfur Dioxide creates acidic particles that can be inhaled by people and absorbed into the bloodstream, causing respiratory issues. Nitrogen Oxides also increase chances of respiratory disorders in humans, by burning the lungs. Particulate matter, because of its small size, can be inhaled unconsciously, causing bronchitis, heart attacks, and even death. Mercury is another pollutant released from coal-fired power plants. Half of mercury pollution is due to the burning of coal. Exposure to mercury can bring damage the brain and heart, as well as mutating fetuses.Children are more susceptible to these pollutants because of the time they spend outdoors and the fact that their lungs are still developing. The amount of pollutants in the air because of the burning of coal has caused asthma to become common among children, and about one in every ten children suffer from breathing problems.
Pollutants released from coal plants also affect society as a whole. In 2012, the costs to people, their families, and the nation from the emissions of these plants was predicted to be from 120 to 300 million dollars. If the effects of health and the environment from coal burning could be converted into a price, the costs of mining, transporting, and burning the coal would equate to approximately $345 annually. The amount of costs from health care needed and the increase in deaths from the adverse effects the pollutants have on individuals is estimated to be from one to six billion dollars.
The environment is perhaps the most affected from the pollutants released during the burning of coal, especially the atmosphere and bodies of water. Nitrogen Oxides and Volatile Organic Compounds, both pollutants released from coal plants, are the main components of ground level ozone, or smog. Sulfur Dioxide is known to cause acid rain which damages crops, forest foliage, and causes eutrophication in lakes and rivers. Another pollutant that damages water sources is mercury. It only takes a small amount of mercury in a lake to make the fish too dangerous to consume. Coal-fired plants are accountable for about a third of the world's carbon emissions. This has a huge impact on global climate change. The increase of the earth's temperatures is a widespread issue that has caused various unnatural environmental changes, including melting glaciers and sea levels rising.
Overall, people should be concerned about these costs of producing electricity. There are too many negative consequences to health and the environment that stem from burning coal, and the costs seem to outweigh the good burning coal does. Burning coal is not the only way to produce electricity, and there are other alternatives. For example, wind power, solar power, hydro power, geothermal energy, natural gas, and these are just some of the alternatives. These electricity substitutes have less negative effects to the environment and the health of people. Even if the economic costs for these alternatives may not initially be cheaper than burning coal, the fact that they are renewable and create lasting job opportunities makes the price over time more cost efficient.