Powering the Hoosier State Creates Concerns

By Max Resnik

March 1, 2011 Updated Mar 1, 2011 at 7:09 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – According to a recent study by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Hoosier State ranked fourth worst in the country in terms of CO2 emissions in 2010.

Recognized as the hottest year on record, 2010 forced power plant boilers to get fired up more often to supply more electricity to homes, businesses and other buildings. Many of the boilers run on coal, which produces carbon dioxide. More than 123-million tons of CO2 were emitted by power plants last year, up from 117-million tons in 2009.

Huge amounts of CO2 lead to more particulates in the air, which can cause serious respiratory issues according to Dr. Deborah McMahan, Health Commissioner for Fort Wayne-Allen County. She says there are both long-term and short-term effects.

In examining the long-term effects McMahan says, “Think of OZONE as like a sunburn for your lungs. What happens is when they get damaged they kind of shed those cells, shed that lining and regenerate a new one, but if that happens over and over and over again, what happens is the lungs actually get scarred. And the more scarring that occurs in the lungs, the less normal tissue that’s available for the normal work of respiration that actually occurs in the lungs.”

In the short-term McMahan says, “We know that it almost acts like an allergen. It’s an irritant to the lungs. So that’s why you get the coughing or the chest tightness. It’s because your airways are clamping down.”

Those with cardiovascular or respiratory issues are at greater risk of injuring already tender lung tissue. Poor air quality also affects the healthiest of Hoosiers according to McMahan. She says, “Those people will be more short of breath, will have less endurance, but I think people then just blame it on the heat or they just fee like they've had a really good workout. That, "Boy I must have been really pounding it today because I feel so winded," or short of breath. They don't realize that their endurance is actually impacted by that poor air quality.”

McMahan adds that the Hoosiers State’s high rates of obesity and smoking don’t bode well for the health of Hoosiers. She says all of these issues, including air quality issues, are tied together.

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