New Research on Coal Pollution Deaths Underscores Urgent Need to Move Beyond Coal


Washington, D.C. – Pollution from coal-fired power plants across the United States was responsible for at least 460,000 deaths over the past two decades, causing twice as many premature deaths as previously estimated, new research reveals. 

Published in Science last week, the study found particulate matter from ten coal plants caused at least 5,000 deaths each between 1999 and 2020, and installing pollution controls such as scrubbers at plants led to large declines in premature deaths. 

In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous said: 

“The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign was created because we know the reality: coal pollution kills. This is why we have worked tirelessly to retire 375 coal plants, and why we’re fighting in communities across the country to retire the remaining 155.

“More than 460,000 Americans have lost their lives to soot pollution from coal plants in the last 20 years, and without swift action, the devastating impact will only grow. As the world turns its eyes to the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) 28, the Biden Administration has a critical opportunity to demonstrate global leadership and save thousands of lives across America by finalizing strong air quality standards for soot. To create a livable future, the world must move beyond coal and all fossil fuels once and for all.” 

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit