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The Health Care Burden of Fossil Fuels

A special online-only addition to September 2011's Graphic Science

Burning fossil fuels releases significant quantities of carbon dioxide, aggravating climate change. Although it gets less attention these days, combustion also emits volumes of pollutants, which can cause a variety of illnesses. The most extensive consequences across the U.S. are noted below.

— Mark Fischetti

U.S. Health Burden Caused by Particulate Pollution from Fossil-Fueled Power Plants
Illness Mean Number of Cases
Asthma (hospital admissions) 3,020
Pneumonia  (hospital admissions) 4,040
Asthma (emergency room visits) 7,160
Cardiovascular ills (hospital admissions) 9,720
Chronic bronchitis 18,600
Premature deaths 30,100
Acute bronchitis 59,000
Asthma attacks 603,000
Lower respiratory ills 630,000
Upper respiratory ills 679,000
Lost workdays 5.13 million
Minor restricted-activity days 26.3 million

» Read more about ‘The Human Cost of Energy’ in the September 2011 issue of Scientific American.

Source: “The Health Costs of Inaction with Respect to Air Pollution,” by Pascale Scapecchi, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Environmental Working Papers, No. 2.

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