How Does Coal Affect the Environment?

Mining and using coal for power significantly impacts the environment causing pollution of the air, water table and the ground. As time goes by, the air pollution also contributes to change in the climate, creating more temperature extremes, particularly in terms of heat waves. These types of damage for the environment mean that, even though coal is cheap to mine and produce, it is definitely worth looking for other sources of power that are cleaner.

Power plants fired by coal produce air pollution with a number of toxins in it, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, heavy metals and particulate matter. Having these poisons in the air leads to smog in the area, acid rain, poisons throughout the environment, and effects on the respiratory, cerebrovascular and cardiovascular systems of people living in the area.

As of 2012, coal-fired power plants contributed a third of all of the carbon dioxide emissions from the United States, making it a major factor in global warming. For people working in the coal mines, the coal dust that rises up during mining and transportation leads to severe and possibly fatal respiratory issues.

Not all of the problems have to do with the air, though. Acid mine drainage refers to acid water flowing out of metal mines or coal mines. This pollutes waterways and negatively affects plants and trees that are watered by them.