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Coal dust is simply not a cause for concern

Mar 24, 2014

The study referenced in your story (Emissions exposure linked to rail line proximity – March 24, 2014) has been erroneously reported to be associated with Washington State University when in fact it was a “crowd funded” study by a WSU professor who raised the money through a weather blog.

The study is simply not credible.  It offers no data linking coal dust to air quality or negative health impacts.  In fact the author of the study himself admitted in the media that the effect of coal dust “seems to be a non-issue”.  Misrepresenting the study’s actual findings for whatever reasons represents bad science, bad policy and bad journalism.

A much more credible study was done by the Northwest Clean Air Agency, which enforces government clean air standards in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.  After a year’s worth of monitoring, the data show that coal dust is simply not a cause for concern.

That’s what the unions whose members mine, load and transport coal here in BC have known for years.  They have stated publicly that,  “coal dust and exposure have simply not appeared in our members as a health issue.”

And as for diesel emissions, let’s not forget that diesel particulates from trains are among the least significant contributors to air pollution. And moving freight by rail instead of by truck reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 75%.

So by all means, let’s have this debate.  But please, let’s stick to the facts.

Alan Fryer

Spokesperson, Coal Alliance

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