The coal plant closure is good news for many reasons, and especially important in the wake of a new report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (the World Health Organizationâ€™s specialized cancer agency) announcing the classification of outdoor air pollution as a cause of cancer in humans.
An expert panel reviewed the latest available scientific literature and found significant evidence to conclude that exposure to outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer and is associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer. The most recent data indicates that 223,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution, putting it in a class with tobacco smoke and tanning beds.
Outdoor air pollution is a complex mixture of gases and particulate matter, which burning coal produces in spades. In 2005, the Lambton plant released 8,991 tonnes of nitrogen oxides, 24,343 tonnes of sulphur dioxide and over 5,000 tonnes of particulate matter. These are major contributors to air pollution and smog.
The 2005 CO2 emissions from Lambton were equivalent to 1.8 million cars. Coal-fired plants, like Lambton Station, are the biggest source of outdoor air pollution in Canada and, as evidenced by the IARC report, come at a major cost to human health.
Given what is known about the link between air pollution and increased risks for respiratory and heart disease, the Lambton shutdown marks a step toward mitigating the health risks posed to Ontarians from dirty sources of energy.
Getting coal out of Ontarioâ€™s electricity mix is allowing non-polluting, renewable energy to grow. We applaud the government for taking steps to transition to a greener economy, while protecting the environment and human health.