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Coal companies are proposing to export over a hundred million tons of coal through the Pacific Northwest to foreign markets. The health and safety impacts of coal exports are enormous—for communities locally, and globally. If coal companies have their way, dirty and dangerous coal would jeopardize families as it passes through communities in Oregon and Washington by rail, barge and ship through the Columbia River Gorge, Vancouver and Portland.


The Sierra Club is partnering with Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Power Past Coal campaign to educate the public on the health impacts of coal exports, and to unite health professionals in opposition to coal export.

More than 3000 health professionals have already joined together to express their concern about the health impacts of coal exports in the Pacific Northwest. If you are a health professional, add your name to the list of doctors, nurses, public health advocates and other health professionals who are concerned about coal exports. Click here.

Below is a personal appeal from health care professional leaders calling for their colleagues to join in signing the letter to Governor Kitzhaber and other elected officials urging them to take a stand against coal exports and call for a Health Impact Assessment of coal exports in Oregon.

Dear Colleagues,

Oregon celebrated a huge win for public health last year when the state's largest polluter, Portland General E|ectric’s Boardman coal plant, agreed to move off of coal by 2010. This progress is now threatened by Big Coal's plans to export coal through Oregon and Washington to Asia.

There are currently three coal terminals proposed in Oregon and Washington that would bring more than 100 million tons of coal per year through our communities. We would see an unprecedented number of coal trains passing through the Columbia River Gorge, Portland, and many more communities, along with dozens of coal barges travelling down the Columbia River - on a daily basis

The health and safety impacts of these dirty and destructive coal export proposals are enormous. Local health impacts include air pollution from trains and barges, ships, and coal—buming power plants abroad. Mercury from those plants returns to pollute our air and water here in the Pacific Northwest.

Diesel particulate matter is associated with impaired lung development in children and adolescents; increased severity and frequency of asthma attacks, emergency room visits, and hospital admissions in children; increased rates of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in adults; increased cardiopulmonary mortality; and increased risk of cancer.

Coal dust is associated with chronic bronchitis; emphysema; pulmonary fibrosis (pneumoconiosis); and environmental contamination through the leaching of toxic heavy metals.

Noise exposure worsens cardiovascular disease and causes cognitive impairment in children, sleep disturbance and resultant fatigue, and exacerbation of mental health disorders, such as depression, stress and anxiety, and psychosis.

Local safety risks include increased risk of accidents and pedestrian injuries along train tracks as well as delayed emergency medical service response to communities on the other side of rail crossing due to frequent long train crossings.

Please join with us and hundreds of other health professionals in urging Govemor Kitzhaber and other leaders to take a stand against coal exports and to call for a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment that will address these concerns along the entire rail corridor before any coal export facility is approved.

To join with us in signing the letter, click here.


Catherine Thomasson, M.D., Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) 

Susan Katz, M.D., Oregon PSR Board President; Chair, Environmental Health Work Group 

Patrick O'Herron, M.D., Oregon PSR Board Member 

John Pearson, M.D., Oregon PSR Board Member

Martin Donohoe, M.D., F.A.C.P., Oregon PSR Advisory Board Member

Andy Harris, M.D., Oregon PSR Advisory Board Member 

Maye Thompson, R.N., Ph.D., Oregon PSR Advisory Board Member



Fact Sheets:




For more information about the health impacts of coal exports, click here. or on these links below: