Asthma-related symptoms, emergency department visits and hospitalizations all decreased, according to data from digital inhaler sensors and local hospitals.
After four Louisville, Kentucky, coal-fired power plants either retired coal as their energy source or installed stricter emissions controls, local residents’ asthma symptoms and asthma-related hospitalizations and emergency department (ED) visits dropped dramatically, according to research published in Nature Energy this week by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Propeller Health, University of California Berkeley, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, University of Texas Austin, Colorado State University, Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, Louisville Metro Office of Civic Innovation and Technology, the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute and Family Allergy & Asthma.
Coal-fired power plants are known to emit pollutants associated with adverse health effects, including increased asthma attacks, asthma-related ED visits and hospitalizations. In 2014, coal-fired power plants accounted for 63 percent of economy-wide emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) in the U.S. Historically, Kentucky has ranked among the top five states in the U.S. for emissions from power generation.
Starting with a pilot in 2012, the city of Louisville embarked on a project called AIR Louisville, which aimed to use data from Propeller Health’s digital inhaler sensors to gain insights into the impact of local air quality on the burden of respiratory disease in the community. The public-private collaboration equipped more than 1,200 Louisville residents with asthma and COPD with Propeller sensors, which attach to patients’ existing inhalers and deliver insights on medication use, symptoms and environmental factors to the Propeller app on their smartphone.
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