Coal company burned by ‘free inhalers’ prank

A major coal company offers free asthma inhalers for kids living near smoke-spewing power plants? That might strike one as a particularly lame attempt at damage control.

In a cleverly executed hoax, an environmental group created a website depicting a supposed asthma-relief campaign by the giant coal company Peabody Energy. “Why Free Inhalers? Because COAL CARES,” the spoof site says. “Puff-Puff™ inhalers are available free to any family living within 200 miles of a coal plant, and each inhaler comes with a $10 coupon towards the cost of the asthma medication itself.”

“Wind Kills” and “Solar Burns” – the hoax site also features a page attacking the solar and wind power energy industries as dangerous.

The purpose of the hoax by the group Coal is Killing Kids is to spotlight the coal industry’s fight to thwart proposed tighter pollution controls. A Wired News report about the hoax analyzed the science issues involved, and a business blogger rapped Peabody for its response to the hoax.

The spoof is amusing, but the truth of air pollution killing thousands of people remains not funny for people living along the Wasatch Front, which during winter temperature inversions has the worst air in the country.

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9 Responses to Coal company burned by ‘free inhalers’ prank

  1. Bob Becker says:


    Love it.

  2. Owain says:

    According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

    “The exact cause of asthma isn’t known. Researchers think some genetic and environmental factors interact to cause asthma, most often early in life. These factors include:

    – An inherited tendency to develop allergies, called atopy (AT-o-pe)
    – Parents who have asthma
    – Certain respiratory infections during childhood
    – Contact with some airborne allergens or exposure to some viral infections in infancy or in early childhood when the immune system is developing ”

    So other than that, the hoax was spot in, in a ‘fake but accurate’ Orwellian kind of way.

    note: In the link above, substitute a ‘.’ where you see ‘-dot-’. For some reason, the comment software is rejecting posts with embedded links.

  3. Mark Shenefelt says:

    Another paragraph from that NIH page is worth adding here:

    “If asthma or atopy runs in your family, exposure to irritants (for example, tobacco smoke) may make your airways more reactive to substances in the air.”

    Also, from another section, “What Causes Asthma Symptoms To Occur?” here is one of the bullets:

    “Irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, chemicals or dust in the workplace, compounds in home décor products, and sprays (such as hairspray).”

    I’d say heavy particulate that turns the air yellow in January is quite an irritant.

  4. Owain says:

    That’s true, particulates can aggravate asthma symtoms, but that is not what some, including President Obama are saying.

    Coal “can create the kinds of air pollution that not only is contributing to climate change but is also creating asthma for kids nearby.”

    That’s not true. There are problems associated with coal production and use, to be sure. Opponents of the coal industry need to stick to facts, however, and avoid misinformation.

  5. hawg says:

    I’m not particularly surprised that enviro-nuts make up false statements.

  6. Owain says:

    hawg, run of the mill enviro-nuts can be easily dismissed. When the President makes enviro-nut statements, that is of greater concern.

  7. ctrentelman says:

    as much as i hate to admit it, i find myself (yuk) agreeing with (gad!) hawg — this was offensive to me because I like to think people with asthma don’t need to resort to dirty tricks to get their point across. The relatively few dollars that coal companies save by being dirtier is dwarfed by the billions we spend as a nation on treating lung diseases that are, yes, aggrivated by dirty air, a major component of which is coal-caused.

    I know because I have asthma so I know what I, and my insurance company (thank you socialized medicine!) spend. Even relatively minor cases like mine cost upwards of $300 a month to maintain good health.

    • hawg says:

      oh charles, don’t take it to hard. It’s really not the first time.
      I go ahead and assume that every time you DON’T respond it means you agree with me. :)

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