Last night, on his Fox News show, Sean Hannity tried to play 'gotcha' with comments made by President Obama at a recent town hall event by pointing out that Obama said coal-fired plants cause pollution that is “creating asthma for kids nearby.” Hannity dismissed the connection between asthma and coal pollution, pointing out that “the exact cause of asthma is not known,” but was too preoccupied with discrediting Obama to mention that pollution from coal plants exacerbates asthma symptoms and can trigger attacks.
A 2001 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that two coal-powered plants in Chicago were responsible for 2,800 asthma attacks per year. Likewise, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that “Substantial scientific evidence” has linked air pollutants like sulfur dioxide -- a compound released when coal is burned -- to respiratory problems. Specifically, the AAFA states that “People prone to allergy, especially those with allergic asthma, can be extremely sensitive to inhaled sulfur dioxide.”
Coal-burning plants also produce nitrogen oxides. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, “Nitrogen oxides play a major role in the formation of ground-level ozone (or smog) in the summertime. Smog triggers millions of asthma attacks each year in the U.S., and worsens or causes other respiratory ailments.”
According to a 2-year study conducted by the NIH and the Environmental Protection Agency, “even modestly increased levels of air pollution cause more frequent asthma symptoms and lower lung function in children who have persistent asthma and live in inner city areas of the United States.” Further, the study showed that “Even air pollution levels within EPA's safety standards made asthma worse in vulnerable children.”
Predictably, other right-wing outlets have picked up the narrative that Obama is lying about the threat that coal poses to Americans' health. Fox Nation ran a CNSNews story under the headline “Obama Caught Fibbing About Coal.” Likewise, Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft linked to Fox Nation and the CNSNews story, and claimed that Obama is “making stuff up” about the coal industry. However Hoft and Fox Nation do not include or mention the portion of the CNSNews article that explains that “The NIH did say that respiratory irritants, such as air pollution, can trigger an asthma attack.”