Common Pollutants and Health Effects Evaluation

Home Energy Audit

Energy Sources: _X_ Electrical _X_ Gas

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Location of the power plant: The power plant is located at Benning Road, Washington, D.C., along the Potomac River

Capacity of the power plant: The plant currently supplies electricity to more than 750,000 homes and businesses in D.C. And Maryland suburbs

Type of power plant: Regulated electricity utility that operates only during times of peak demand

Fuel source of the power plant: Fuel oil

Amount of fuel the plant uses per day: 27,000 barrels of fuel oil

How old is the plant? The plant has been in operation since 1906

What pollutants are emitted by the plant? sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, VOCs, sulphuric acid

What health effects do these pollutants have?

Sulphur dioxide is harmful to health and in cases of high exposure may be life-threatening, although this would have to be at the level of 100 ppm in the air. It can create a burning sensation in the nose and throat and may also lead to breathing difficulties. It is also believed that exposure to lower levels of sulphur dioxide over the long-term may create lung problems, although the amounts present in the air from the power plant are still not likely to be at the levels required for this type of effects. Asthma sufferers are however likely to be more sensitive to the health effects of sulphur dioxide.

At low levels of exposure over the long-term, nitrous oxide may be associated with damage to the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, hepatic system, haemopoetic system, and reproductive system. In particular there have been shown to be increased risks of spontaneous abortion and infertility in those exposed to low levels on a consistent basis.

Carbon monoxide affects the transport of oxygen around the body, and at high levels is deadly. It may also affect the amount of oxygen in the cardiovascular system and the heart in particular. This means that it may create greater health problems in those who already have heart conditions, as they may be more sensitive to small changes. The main problems associated with carbon dioxide on the other hand are environmental rather than health impacts. It is however possible that global warming may indirectly impact on health due to the changing climatic conditions which it brings.

What does the plant do with the “spent” fuel and any other bi-products? There is no official information available as to how the power plant disposes of “spent fuel” and other bi-products. Environmental groups have suggested that the waste is disposed of in an uncontrolled toxic waste site.

All other sources of energy used within my home: Apart from the electricity which is used in the home for most appliances, gas is also used in the kitchen to power the stove and the hot water boiler system for the house. This is also then used in the heating system in the house. Water is the other main source of energy which is used in the house, for washing dishes such as in the dishwasher, washing clothes, having showers, washing the car and watering the lawn. Gas is used for an emergency generator in the case of a power cut to the house, and also for some of the tools such as the lawnmower. Logs are also burned on the fire in the winter.

Areas in the home where energy efficiency could be improved: Energy efficiency could be improved by making sure that all electrical items are turned off after use as many are left on standby. The computer is often also left on when not in use. Using appliances like the washing machine and dishwasher less often would also reduce energy consumption. Turning lights off in the house when they are not being used would improve energy efficiency, and also putting the hot water system on a timer instead of having it on all day.

What I learnt from the audit about local energy sources: The main thing I learnt from the energy audit was that the power plant which provides our electricity may be producing many different problems for the environment and the health of the local population. This highlighted how important it may be for all homes to be as energy efficient as possible, as this would then reduce the amount of power they needed to produce, and therefore reduce the bi-products they produce.


African-American Environmentalist Association (2000). Our Unfair Share III. Retrieved on January 21, 2009, from

ATSDR (1999) ToxFAQs: Sulfur dioxide. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. Retrieved on January 21, 2009, at

Pepco (2009). Retrieved on January 21, 2009, at

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (No date) Common Pollutants and Health Effects. Retrieved on January 21, 2009, at

USDHSS (2007). Health Consultation. U.S. Department of Health and Social Services. Retrieved on January 21, 2009, at

USDL (No date) Occupational Safety and Health Guideline for Nitrous Oxide. United States Department of Labor. Retrieved on January 21, 2009, at

Home Energy Audit

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