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| Last Updated:: 01/04/2016

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)


Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are two primary examples of particle-forming air pollutants (particulate matter) from coal power plants. Particulate matter is known to contribute to serious health problems, including lung cancer and other cardiopulmonary mortality. SO2 and NOx are both highly toxic to human health, and contribute directly to thousands of hospitalizations, heart attacks, and deaths annually.

 

SO2 is particularly dangerous for children. Studies correlate SO2 emissions from petroleum refineries — even in lower exposure levels over time — to higher rates of childhood asthma in children who live or attend school in proximity to those refineries. Similarly, small particles of NOx can penetrate deeply into sensitive lung tissue and damage it, causing premature death in extreme cases. Inhalation of such particles is associated with emphysema and bronchitis.

 

The largest sources of combined global SO2 and NOx emissions are from fossil fuel combustion at power plants and other industrial facilities.

 

SO2 and NOx emissions represent a known and significant health risk from routine oil, gas, and coal production.