Advanced Toxicology


Carbon footprint is a term used to describe the impact an individual has on the release of carbon compounds, including carbon dioxide, into the environment. This carbon footprint is commonly produced by the burning of fossil fuels. With the burning of fossil fuels comes the release of many pollutants that cause health concerns, such as the release of particulate matter on the respiratory system. Reflect on individuals you know with respiratory, immune, or hepatic system concerns. How can the environmental toxicants affect their health? Whose responsibility do you think it should be to see that the carbon footprint from our community is reduced to minimize adverse health effects?

Please include the name of the person or question to which you are replying in the subject line. For example, "Tom's response to Susan's comment."


I have mild asthma and rarely have an issue. My doctor called it “exercise-induced asthma.” Going from a cold environment into a warm house or vehicle when I lived up north was the worst. When I moved to Florida, our home was located about three miles from the Tampa Electric Company (TECO) power plant in Apollo Beach. The realtors like to refer to the smokestacks as “steam stacks” as they use steam to scrub the products of combustion from the coal that the plant runs on. Often, the steam would have a yellow tint to it and smell awful. The sulfur dioxide would take cause me shortness of breath if I drove by. The TECO plant was rated the third dirtiest power plant in the county a few years ago, and if memory serves me, the eighth dirtiest in the world.

            Coal-powered plants produce approximately two-thirds of the sulfur dioxide, one-third of the carbon dioxide, and one-quarter of the nitrogen oxide emissions in the United States. Coal power plants also release fine particulate matter into the atmosphere (IECG, 1996). “People with asthma can experience increased airway resistance with sulfur dioxide concentrations of less than 0.1 ppm when exercising. Healthy adults experience increased airway resistance at 5 ppm, sneezing and coughing at 10 ppm, and bronchospasm at 20 ppm” (Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, 2014).

            TECO plans to transition to natural gas instead. It will still create carbon dioxide, but sulfur dioxide and particulates will be significantly reduced. TECO is also considering solar, a decision I am not thrilled about. They are requesting an 18% rate increase to cover the cost of their solar project. Solar power is not efficient enough yet to replace fossil fuels.


Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. (2014, October 21). Toxic substances portal: Sulfur dioxide.,edema%20with%20possible%20airway%20obstruction.

International Energy Coal Generation. (1996). Coal fired power generation.

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