Biomass plants are proven to be threat to health

To the editor:

I am a southern Indiana family physician who assisted in the successful fight against two biomass plants that were proposed in Scott and Crawford counties in 2009. I encourage the citizens of Dubois County not to fall to the propaganda used by the biomass industry to marginalize any opposition to corporate profits. Fortunately, in our fight, we were able to submit evidence from multiple medical organizations, including the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs specifically addressing the dangers of biomass on the health of individuals. After introducing the science, rather than the rhetoric, of the dangers of exposure to particulate pollution, as well as other health hazards, local policy makers in both counties enacted legislation to prevent the construction of these pillars of death in our communities.

Just because a power plant is granted a permit by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management does not mean it will be safe. The current process does not account for some of the most harmful particulates, called “ultrafine,” and does not regulate particulate pollution to levels that are safe. There are now hundreds of research studies showing that particulate pollution is harmful, even at levels below what is considered “safe” by IDEM. Air pollution is associated with an increased risk of a broad range of medical problems, including lung disease such as asthma attacks and pneumonia, emergency room use, hospitalization rates, heart attacks and higher rates of death.

I support the efforts of Healthy Dubois County with regard to the proposed miscanthus biomass plant. What surprises me is that government officials are continuing to pursue development of this plant despite the county already having unhealthy air. The American Lung Association State of the Air 2013 report ( shows that Dubois County fails in its air quality regarding particulate matter. These criteria are set by the Environmental Protection Agency, which are then enforced by IDEM. The American Lung Association State of the Air 2013 report also shows that three of the 25 most polluted communities in the nation are here in Indiana. If IDEM is adequately doing its job to protect Indiana citizens, why then is air quality in so many communities suffering?

—Shane Avery, M.D.

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