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Shenango Coke closure lowered heart-related emergency room visits 42%

Smokestacks at the former Shenago Coke Works on Neville Island were imploded in May 2018.

By Elizabeth Perry

A recent report shows a direct link between air pollution and emergency room visits for cardiac-related events.

The report details health impacts faced by residents surrounding the Shenango Coke Works, which closed in 2016.

"We appreciate the research that was done that demonstrates what residents have always known. We knew residents were being harmed," said Angelo Taranto, one of the co-founders of Allegheny County Clean Air Now via statement. "We've known their stories. This research bears out the experiences that people have had and the health problems they have suffered living in the shadow of Shenango."

ACCAN is a community grassroots organization that was formed to fight pollution and hold the former Shenago site on Neville Island accountable.

The report by Wuyue Yu and George Thurston of New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine cited an immediate, 42% drop in cardiovascular emergency department visits.

Cardiovascular visits decreased year over year since the 2016 closure.

When the plant was still in operation there were yearly increases.

The study focused on the years 2013 to 2018.

“Our study provides clear evidence that this intervention lowering fossil fuel-associated air pollution benefited public health in both the short and longer term,” according to the study.

The researchers pointed out that the Shenango plant accounted for 3.5% of Allegheny County’s point source air pollution emissions and would annually belch out more than 900 tons of sulfur dioxide into the air.

The researchers note there was a “significant reduction” of sulfur dioxide in the air after the plant closure in places like Lawrenceville that went down by 50%, and nearby the plant in Clairton, there was a 90% reduction.


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