Friday, December 9, 2011

What is Acid reflux? How to avoid it?

What is Acid reflux?

As we know there are plenty of stomach problems, some are very severe and some can be easily treated at home. Acid reflux is one of the severe ones and we can all it as a product of acidity in the stomach.

So what exactly is acid reflux? It is a condition where the acids in the stomach flow back to esophagus causing a feeling of burning. The patient is in a very uncomfortable situation as this type of acidity hurts very badly. Esophagus is the food pipe; it’s a channel of connecting mouth to the stomach. Our stomach secretes acids in order to digest food. When these acids are secreted more than what is required, acidity occurs. Some acids move back to the esophagus. The inner part of esophagus is not very well protected as the stomach. So the acids hurt the inner lining of the food pipe causing severe pain. It is a very bad form of acidity and amongst the worst stomach problems.

Acid reflux can be avoided if proper care is taken. Like most of the stomach problems, acid reflux can also be treated by your own self at home if it is at initial stage. But too many experiments are always dangerous as acidity cannot be taken lightly. This is a very bad news for the fat people that acid reflux mostly targets overweight people at the age close to 40 years. Many stomach problems are caused due to bad eating habits. It doesn’t mean eating more but it occurs by not having a proper diet plan.

A well balanced diet plan can help you to avoid acidity, acid reflux and many of the stomach problems. What you can do is instead of having a huge meal at one time, you can break it out into smaller ones after regular intervals. This will help to digest food properly and utilize the energy for work. Also don’t go for sleep just after you had a meal. Improper digestion is the root cause of stomach problems including acidity and acid reflux.

Acid reflux can also be avoided if you drink plenty of water and do regular exercise. An active routine keeps the body organs busy and make them work in the right direction. Research has proven that 6 to 8 hours of daily sleep also keeps the threat of acid reflux and acidity away from you along with several other stomach problems.

What causes acid reflux?

Acid reflux commonly occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not work properly, and allows acid to seep upwards from the stomach to the esophagus. Although we know that a faulty LES is a common cause, we are not sure why it becomes faulty. One of many reasons could be that pressure in the stomach rises higher than the LES can withstand.

Here are some common causes of acid reflux:

* Pregnancy - more commonly found during the third trimester of a pregnancy. As the growing baby presses on the stomach, contents may back up into the esophagus. Doctors say antacids will not relieve acid reflux caused by pregnancy. Patients find that if they eat smaller meals but eat more meals per day, it helps. In the vast majority of cases the acid reflux will disappear soon after the baby is born.

* Large meals and eating habits - people who have large meals will usually find that their acid reflux will improve if they cut down portion sizes. Patients who kept a food diary, noting down everything they ate and linking certain foods to incidences of acid reflux, have experienced a reduction in acid reflux.

* Bending forward - this movement will not usually cause acid reflux unless there is another underlying trigger or problem.

* Hiatus hernia (hiatal hernia) - a condition where the upper part of the stomach protrudes into the chest through a small opening in the diaphragm. Hiatal hernias are commonly caused by severe coughing, vomiting, straining, sudden physical exertion, pregnancy, and obesity.

* Peptic ulcers and insufficient digestive enzymes - peptic ulcers and not enough digestive enzymes in the stomach may slow down the digestive process, causing an accumulation of gastric acids that back up into the esophagus.

* Asthma - experts still argue about which came first, the asthma or the acid reflux - did the asthma cause the acid reflux or did the acid reflux cause the asthma? Nobody has a definite answer to the relationship between asthma and acid reflux. Some say that the coughing and sneezing brought on by asthmatic attacks can cause changes in the chest which trigger acid reflux. Others blame asthma medications - they are taken to dilate the airways, but might also relax the esophageal sphincter.

Most asthma sufferers say that their asthma is worsened by acid reflux because the acid that seeps into the esophagus from the stomach stimulates the nerves along the neck into the chest, causing bronchial constriction and breathing problems.

* Smoking - research has shown that the saliva of smokers contain lower levels of bicarbonates, which neutralize acids. Cigarette smoking also reduces the production of saliva. Smoking also stimulates the production of stomach acid, weakens the esophageal sphincter, promotes the movement of bile salts from the intestine to the stomach (making the acids more harmful), and slows down digestion (making stomach pressure last longer because it takes more time to empty).

* Alcohol - patients have commented that quitting alcohol, or cutting down consumption significantly improved their symptoms.

What is the treatment for acid reflux?

The vast majority of people with acid reflux will get better if they make some changes to their diet. Some foods are safe for heartburn sufferers, while others are major triggers of it.

It would be easy to say that there is a reflux diet. Unfortunately, we all react differently to different foods.

Below is a list of foods/drinks that commonly cause irritation and/or heartburn:

* Alcohol
* Black pepper
* Chili and chili powder
* Citrus fruit, pineapple
* Coffee
* Garlic
* Spicy food
* Tea
* Tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, ketchup
* Vinegar

Some patients with acid reflux say these gassy foods cause discomfort:

* Beans
* Broccoli
* Brussel Sprouts
* Cabbage
* Cauliflower
* Kale
* Fizzy drinks (sodas)


* Acid suppressant - these have been shown to be effective, such as histamine2-receptor antagonists (blockers). Histamines are good at reducing inflammation. An inflamed stomach produces more acid - blocking this extra production of acid helps prevent the acids from building up and seeping upwards.

* Propton pump inhibitors - these reduce the production of acid in the stomach. They act on cells in the stomach wall and produce stomach acids.

* Prokinetic agents - these promote the emptying of the stomach, stopping it from becoming overfull.

* Antiacids - commonly used to treat mild acid-related symptoms, such as heartburn or indigestion. They neutralize the acids in the stomach. These are not recommended for frequent heartburn for patients with GERD.

What Is Acid Reflux? What Causes Acid Reflux?

The word "reflux" comes from the Medieval Latin word refluxus which comes from the Latin word refluere, meaning "to flow back, to recede". If you suffer from acid reflux the acids from your stomach "flow back" into your esophagus, causing discomfort and pain - this discomfort is known as heartburn.

What is the esophagus?
In simple terms, the esophagus is the tube between the stomach and the pharynx, which is at the back of your throat. According to Medilexicon's Medical Dictionary, "the esophagus is the portion of the alimentary canal between the pharynx and stomach. It is about 25-cm long and consists of three parts: the cervical part, from the cricoid cartilage to the thoracic inlet; the thoracic part, from the thoracic inlet to the diaphragm; and the abdominal part, below the diaphragm to the cardiac opening of the stomach."

The esophageal sphincter

The esophageal sphincter lies at the junction where the stomach and the esophagus join. Your stomach produces strong acids and enzymes (gastric juices) which are used in food digestion. The inner lining of your stomach has several mechanisms to protect itself from the effect of the gastric juices on itself, but the lining of the esophagus does not. There is a valve that stops the gastric juices from going up the esophagus - it is called the lower esophageal sphincter.

When the lower esophageal sphincter becomes weakened gastric juices can seep upwards into the esophagus.

Most of us have acid reflux problems now and again. In majority of cases this is harmless. If the problem becomes persistent and goes untreated, the heartburn can develop into GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). In chronic and severe cases the esophagus can become scarred - the patient may have difficulty swallowing, and the risk of developing cancer of the esophagus increases significantly.

What is the difference between acid reflux and heartburn?
Acid reflux is the action, while heartburn is the sensation. The pain is heartburn, while the movement of acid into the esophagus from the stomach is acid reflux.
What are the symptoms of acid reflux?

* Asthma - gastric juices seep upwards into the throat, mouth and air passages of the lungs
* Chest pain - part of the heartburn sensation
* Dental erosion
* Dysphagia - difficulty swallowing
* Heartburn - a burning feeling rising from the stomach or lower chest towards the neck
* Hoarseness
* Regurgitation - bringing food back up into the mouth .

Acid Reflux Disease Symptoms: Knowing your Body

Acid reflux disease is a condition in which the stomach acids abnormally reflux into the esophagus. This phenomenon is irregularly experienced by most people, most especially after eating.

Our body uses gastric and stomach acids to break down the food that we eat. Normally, after the digestion in the stomach, the food is delivered by the digestive muscles to the intestines for extra digestion. But in patients who have acid reflux disease, the acidic stomach contents are moved back to the esophagus, which then causes inflammation. Cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, pregnancy, and fatty foods are some factors which worsens acid reflux conditions.

Our present knowledge about acid reflux based on medical researches tells us that this disease is common in men as it is in women. There is no sexual preference. Moreover, the prevalence of acid reflux is more frequent in people of 40 years of age or more.

Symptoms of acid reflux may be typical or atypical. But based on the diagnosis of acid reflux patients, only 70% of those who have this disease manifest typical symptoms.

Typical or esophageal symptoms concern indicators which are related with the esophagus. Such symptoms include the following:

Heartburn. This is a condition in which the patient feels a painful burning feeling in the esophagus. The pain often develops in the chest and may swell to the neck or throat. This is most probable to occur in relation with these activities: after a heavy meal, lifting, bending over, and lying down. Based on one study, about 75% of acid reflux patients experience this symptom at night. These nigh-time patients also tend to experience more harsh pain than those whose symptom occurs at other times.

Dyspepsia. Researches show that about half of acid reflux patients have dyspepsia. This is a syndrome which consists of pain and distress in the upper abdomen, nausea after a meal, and stomach fullness. It is not a rule however, that those who have dyspepsia have acid reflux.

Regurgitation. This is when the gastric contents back up into the pharynx and sometimes as far as the mouth. In cases where the acids have spilled into the tracheobronchial tree, respiratory complications can be stimulated.

There are many instances, though, that acid reflux patients do not manifest symptoms such as regurgitation and heartburn. Instead, they experience atypical or extraesophageal symptoms which include the following:

Throat Symptoms. Although it does not commonly happen, acid reflux patients suffer from symptoms that occur in the throat. Hoarseness, the feeling of having a lump in the throat, dry cough are undergone by those who have acid laryngitis, a throat symptom. Patients can also have difficulty in swallowing, a condition known as dysphagia. In critical cases, the food may get trapped in the throat or even choke, which can result to a severe chest pain. Other throat symptoms are chronic sore throat and persistent hiccups.

Vomiting and Nausea. When a patient suffers from nausea which persists for weeks, he may have acid reflux. There are few instances where vomiting can occur as often as once a day.

Respiratory Symptoms. Coughing and wheezing are counted as respiratory symptoms. These result from the overrunning of the stomach acids into the tracheobronchial tree creating bronchoconstriction.

Acid reflux disease can last for several months if not given proper medical attention. Drug treatment may only be required for a short time. But when the symptoms tend to repetitively occur, the drug treatment may have to be reapplied.

Symptoms And Natural Cure For Acid Reflux

How would a person know if he or she has acid reflux? How does acid reflux feel like? It is a burning sensation that affects the upper abdomen after a heavy meal when a person is already relaxing. Later, the pain goes up to the breastbone and to the chest. From this discomfort, it can lead to the inflammation of the esophagus, indigestion, hoarseness and many other symptoms.

Acid reflux disease is the condition that gives uneasiness to many adults including infants by causing sudden pains and burning in the chest. Its most common symptom is called heartburn. The condition is characterized by refluxing or backing up of the stomach acid into the esophagus. While heartburn can normally take place sometimes, it cannot be always rated as acid reflux disease. But if heartburn occurs twice to thrice a week, it is more probably a symptom of acid reflux.

In many cases, the symptoms of acid reflux disease occur after a fatty meal, when drinking liquor or beverages which contains caffeine, when lying down right after meal and worse when smoking. And because of these unpleasant sensations brought about by acid reflux, it can severely affect your health and your lifestyle. A number of people who suffered from this disease also suffered in the quality of lifestyle. Who would be enjoying life if there were a constant reminder of pain? The symptoms are so obvious that you do not need a doctor to diagnose it.

For this particular disease, there could be a variety of treatments that you can choose from. Symptoms which occur less than five times in a month can easily be treated by over the counter medicines. The doctor can give you pieces of advice on the kind of medicine appropriate for you. However, if your body does not work well with the prescribed medicines, it would be best to shift to a new one or seek for another option. Medicines formulated from natural herbs have less or no side effects.

For cases of acute acid reflux, surgical treatment may already be recommended to you. The standard treatment that has been preferred for a long time is called nissen fundoplication. In this surgical procedure, the stomach is wrapped to reinforce the sphincter and thereby preventing the stomach acid from refluxing.

In any manner, the effective way of finding relief from acid reflux symptoms is the natural way. Some simple steps that can work together with your medications will effectively cast away your suffering from this disease. A modified lifestyle will help you make things better. Things to be changed include your dietary habits, refraining from smoking and minimizing the alcohol intake. Salty foods have been found out to aggravate acid reflux disease as much as the fatty foods. Taking extra table salts in your meal can expose you to graver risks.

Obesity doesn’t only harm the heart but can worsen acid reflux disease as well. The excess fat in the abdomen amplifies the pressure in it causing the stomach acid to rise up to the gullet. So diet must be intensively watched out so as to avoid the symptoms and the discomfort they caused.

Natural cure of this disease also includes exercise. Proper stretching can help reduce the pressure on your stomach and subsequently helping you fight the symptoms of acid reflux disease.

If you can follow the preventive measures against acid reflux disease, then you are on your way to beating acid reflux without turning to medications.

Using Acid Reflux Medicine To Get Rid Of The Annoying Heartburns

Alcohol lovers would often love to match their drink with spicy dishes and greasy and fatty foods. The perfect combination makes the drinking perfect to the palate. Unfortunately though, this is bad for the esophagus and the stomach. The alcohol, the spicy dishes and the greasy and fatty foods causes acid reflux or also known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Other causes of acid reflux are pregnancy, genetic influences, presence of infection in the gastrointestinal tract, and the Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).

The Gastrointestinal System of the body is composed of the following: the oral cavity, the esophagus, the stomach, small intestine, large intestine and the anus. The main function of the Gastrointestinal System is to digest food particles, absorb digestive juices and eliminate undigested materials which are of course the feces.

The acid reflux affects the stomach and the esophagus. This occurs when the liquid from the stomach which contains pepsin, an irritating substance produced by the chief cells goes up to the esophagus passing through the cardiac sphincter. The cardiac sphincter is the opening to the stomach from the esophagus. Its function is to prevent reflux of the substances in the stomach because these substances cause esophageal irritation and ulcer. If the cardiac sphincter fails to close after receiving food from the esophagus, acid reflux occurs.

Acid reflux is a chronic condition. Once a person suffers from it, it becomes a life-long ordeal. Injury in the esophagus also is a chronic condition. Even if the esophagus has healed with treatment and it is being stopped, the injury will return in most patients within a few months. Once treatment for said illness is begun, it usually needs to be continued indefinitely.

Normally, liquid reflux in the stomach occurs to a healthy individual. However, people with the acid reflux or GERD, has more acid in the liquid. This may be caused by the genetic influences, specifically, an increased number of parietal cells which produce pepsin in the stomach.
The body has mechanisms to protect itself from the harmful effects of reflux and acid. Most reflux happens during the day when individuals are upright. In said position, the refluxed liquid is more likely to flow back down into the stomach due to gravity. Moreover, while individuals are awake, they continually swallow, regardless if there is reflux or not. Each time individuals swallow the reflux liquid slide back into the stomach. The last body defense to reflux is the salivary glands in the mouth. These glands produce saliva, which contains bicarbonate. Every time an individual swallows, the bicarbonate-containing saliva slides down the esophagus. The bicarbonate neutralizes the small amount of acid that remains in the esophagus.

Basically, acid reflux medicines inhibit the production or release of pepsin produced by the chief cells and hydrochloric acid produced by the parietal cells in the stomach. Other medicines may not totally inhibit the production but they neutralize the acid.

The acid reflux medicines are the Histamine Blockers or the H2 receptor antagonists. Histamine stimulates a pump in the stomach that releases hydrochloric acid. The H2 receptor antagonists prevent the histamine from stimulating this pump. They block the production of the hydrochloric acid thereby reducing secretion and concentration into the stomach.

One of the acid reflux medicines is the Cimetidine which was introduced in 1975. It has a short half-life and short duration of action. The three most popular H2 blockers are Ranitidine, Famotidine and Nizatidine. They are more potent than Cimetidine because in addition to blocking gastric acid secretions, they also promote healing of the ulcer by eliminating its cause. They also have longer duration of action.

As the cliché goes, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, you can avoid having an acid reflux or GERD by avoiding too much smoking and alcohol, and by eating less of spicy and greasy food. When taking NSAIDs, be sure you take it after meals. Lastly, avoid stress because it stimulates the release of the deadly acid.

Avoid Food And beverages That Cause Acid reflux

Many people get hungry because they lack food. Children become malnourished if they are not given the right amount of food which contains the needed vitamins and minerals which in turn make the body strong and healthy.

The fact is, not all foods are healthy. The most popular unhealthy food is ‘junk foods’. Just as the word suggests, junk, which means it is like garbage. But many people are still patronizing these kinds of food.

People diagnosed with certain diseases often are given a list of foods to avoid. And this is true with the case of a person having acid reflux. Acid reflux or the GERD is a condition wherein stomach acids go back to the esophagus because of the improper functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter. If this condition is not treated, it will only get worse which can cause serious complications.

You can effectively tell if you have acid reflux if you experience symptoms like sour taste, burning sensation in the chest or upper abdomen and your throat’s back, excessive belching, breathing difficulties, tightness of throat, difficulty in swallowing food, and bad breath.

If you frequently experience these symptoms, then you probably have acid reflux. Visit your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis, so that you will know the severity of your condition.

There are certain beverages and foods which cause acid reflux, and this includes the following:

** chocolate
** coffee
** spearmint and peppermint
** alcoholic drinks
** fruit juices
** fatty foods and fried foods
** onions
** citrus fruits
** spicy foods
** products which are tomato-based
** caffeinated drinks

A change in your diet is the most effective way to deal with acid reflux. Although at first you may feel deprived of these foods, think of what will happen if you continue to eat or drink these beverages and foods.

Start your change in diet by keeping a record of your food intake. In this manner, you can tell which of the foods or beverages causes your acid reflux. So every time you experience that burning sensation, take note of what you’ve actually eaten. Once you have the list accomplished, put it somewhere where you can easily see it, like the refrigerator.

A lifestyle change may seem rather difficult. Your doctor can greatly help you in your transition. The very first thing that you should do is to set a goal, like for instance eating small meals, while avoiding those above-mentioned foods. Slowly quit smoking and drinking. Of course, you can’t expect an abrupt change.

Every time you feel any of the symptoms, you will be instantly reminded that you’re on the wrong path. Self-discipline is very much important to attain a successful lifestyle change.

While many people are taking antacids, others are finding it better to stick with the natural way. On the long run, antacids are not that good for your body, even to your stomach. It would be better to start changing your lifestyle, the sooner the better.

Besides, a healthy lifestyle doesn’t only prevent acid reflux but other diseases as well. You will gain more benefit in changing your life entirely, especially regarding food eating habits. Eat the right kinds of food at the right amount, and you’ll stay healthy. Prevent acid reflux, change…

The Right and Effective Home Remedies for Acid Reflux

Are you fond of eating junk food, protein-rich food and processed foods? If you do, well, this is bad news for you. You are certainly a candidate for an acid reflux problem in your stomach and esophagus.

Acid reflux is a condition that is a prelude to ulcer. It is caused by a disturbance in the acid-alkaline condition in the stomach.

Eating specific acid foods that are hard to digest induces stomach spasms or twitching which causes the cardiac sphincter, opening between the esophagus and stomach to open for gases to form that should not.

This is an indigestion problem that has gotten out of hand and created acid wastes to flow up to your esophagus causing an irritation. This irritation, if not controlled can result to ulcers and other infections. The acid reflux diet that you have been eating should now be changed.

Once you have the symptoms of acid reflux, you need not resort to medications at once to cure the problem. You can start with home remedies that are surely less expensive.

You may start with changing your diet. You have to say goodbye to the following food and beverages: tea, coffee, radishes, garlic, onion, spices (pepper), oils, alcohol, sugar, soft drinks, diet soft drinks, asparagus (Brussels sprouts), high protein foods, pasta noodles, corn starch, eggs, plums, prunes, cranberries, and all processed foods including junk foods. Now, you may want to cry. All your comfort foods are gone.

If you think, you cannot abruptly eliminate them in your diet; start with taking just small amounts. Then start substituting them with the following: fruits, citric fruits in small amounts though due to their acidic content, all kinds of vegetables and almonds.
If you feel that you are not feeling the acid reflux symptoms anymore, you may go back to your previous diet in moderation though to prevent recurrence of the acid reflux.

Aside from proper diet, there are practical home remedies to avoid the acid reflux symptom. They are:

* Avoid smoking before or during meals.
* Eat in an upright sitting position.
* Do not lie on the bed immediately after eating.
* Take small walks after eating. It stimulates the digestive system.
* Avoid exercise after a large meal.
* Avoid wearing tight clothes.
* Do not drink alcohol while eating.
* Chew food slowly and thoroughly.

One of the home remedies for treating acid reflux is the ginger alternative. Ingesting ginger with a meal helps to reduce an upset stomach. The ginger is grounded and added to foods and taken in tea or capsule form. Most herbalists recommend consuming 500mg. of ginger with a full glass of water after meals.

We are often told by our physicians to drink more water, if possible at least 8 glasses each day. The water helps eliminate body toxins and allow the body to expel acid naturally.

Green tea has been used for centuries in Japan and other oriental countries as an after dinner drink. Green teas assist the body in the digestion process, and help soothe the stomach’s sensitive tissue.

Herbal teas containing peppermint, chamomile, ginger, licorice root and catnip even in just small traces help the stomach lining repair itself. Often, one cup of tea following dinner is enough to reduce future acid reflux symptoms.

Numerous Remedies for Acid Reflux

No doubt you've heard of numerous natural remedies for heartburn as well as acid reflux disease problems. Natural remedies are sought after now because people are living increasingly more stressful and demanding lives.

As an alternative to taking those strong and dangerous medications a physician may prescribe to help remedy acid reflux, one is much better off making a more sensible choice.

People are fed up with being prescribed prescription drugs to fix their problem and the prescriptions not working, so more are choosing a holistic alternative treatment.

Finding a natural cure for acid reflux disease is what numerous victims are searching for. All it requires is time as well as patience and you will be as you had been before you began having the problem.

If you hae acid reflux disease or simply are afflicted by regular heartburn, there are lots of homeopathic and cure options which say have been shown to treat, remedy and get rid of signs and symptoms.

Acid Reflux Is A Medical Problem

Acid reflux disease has become a huge medical problem in recent times.

Acid reflux may produce a lot of discomfort for the individual when it is not dealt with.

Heartburn or acid reflux not only has an effect on the digestive system; it could very well create harmful effects on different parts of the human body unless remedied effectively.

When you consider the increase of the intensity during the passing of time, you realize the possibality of that happening.

The effective treatment becomes mandatory, if an individual has persistent problems. This is a dilemma a significant number of individuals have.

Despite the fact that acid reflux disease is no considered serious usually, nonetheless it is still something which should not be ignored.

Here you will find the best and only totally natural holistic method you can use to avoid and get rid of acid reflux permanently.

Rather than taking costly as well as harmful drugs, this is a safe, simple and easy, all natural method to remedy acid reflux disease.

Acid Rain Program

The Acid Rain Program is a market-based initiative taken by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to reduce overall atmospheric levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which cause acid rain. The program is an implementation of emissions trading that primarily targets coal-burning power plants, allowing them to buy and sell emission permits (called "allowances") according to individual needs and costs. Allowance trading essentially ended in 2010 when EPA issued the Transport Rule. In 2011, the trading program that existed since 1995 was replaced by four separate trading programs under the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).


Title IV of the 1990 Clean Air Act established the allowance market system known today as the Acid Rain Program. Initially targeting only sulfur dioxide, Title IV set a decreasing cap on total SO2 emissions for each of the following several years, aiming to reduce overall emissions to 50% of 1980 levels. The program did not begin immediately, but was implemented in two stages: Phase I (starting January 1, 1995) and Phase II (starting January 1, 2000).

The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 set as its primary goal the reduction of annual SO2 emissions by 10 million tons below 1980 levels of about 18.9 million tons. To achieve these reductions by 2000, when a nationwide sulfur dioxide emissions cap of 8.95 million tons per year began, the law required a two phase tightening of operating restrictions placed on fossil fuel fired (e.g., coal, oil, natural gas) power plants. The operation and pricing of a market for emissions allowances would not be viable in the absence of an effective regulatory cap on the total number of allowances available.

Scope of Phase I requirements

In Phase I, half the total reductions were required by January 1, 1995, largely by requiring 110 electric power generating plants (261 units in 21 states) to cut sulfur dioxide emission rates to 2.5 lbs/million British thermal units (mmBtu). Each of these generating units was identified by name and location, and a quantity of emissions allowances were specified in the statute in tons of allowable SO2 emissions per year.

For comparison, new generating units built since 1978 were required to limit sulfur dioxide to a "lowest achievable emissions rate" of about 0.6 lbs/mmBtu. Coal with 1.25% sulfur and 10,000 Btu/lb produces sulfur dioxide emissions of 2.5 lbs/mmBtu, with lower emissions produced by either lower sulfur content or higher Btu content.

As an incentive for reducing emissions, for each ton of sulfur dioxide reduced below the applicable emissions limit, owners of a generating unit received an emissions allowance they could use at another unit, keep for future use, or sell. This legitimized a market for sulfur dioxide emissions allowances, administered by the Chicago Board of Trade. Units that installed flue gas desulfurization equipment (e.g., scrubbers) or other "qualifying Phase I technology" which reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 90%, qualified for a two-year extension of the 1995 deadline, provided they owned allowances to cover their total actual emissions for each year of the extension period.

Scope of Phase II requirements

In Phase II, all fossil-fired units over 75 MWe were required to limit emissions of sulfur dioxide to 1.2 lbs/mmBtu by January 1, 2000. Thereafter, they were required to obtain an emissions allowance for each ton of sulfur dioxide emitted, subject to a mandatory fine of $2,000.00 for each ton emitted in excess of allowances held. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) distributes allowances equivalent to 8.95 million tons each year (the emissions cap), based on calculations of historical Btu usage for each unit, and may allocate various small "bonus reserves" of allowances.

Nitrogen oxide reduction

The 1990 Amendments also required reductions in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions at Phase I units. The key factors in NOx formation are flame temperature and oxygen levels present for combustion. Installation of low-NOx burner retrofits are the most common means of compliance, generally reducing emissions from uncontrolled levels by up to 50%. Many utilities complied with requirements by installing stack-gas scrubbers and low-NOx burners at the same time. Low-NOx burner technology was readily available, and considerably less expensive than installation of scrubbers, so control of NOx was considered less demanding by most electric utilities.

Compliance strategies

The market based SO2 allowance trading component of the Acid Rain Program was intended to allow utilities to adopt the most cost effective strategy to reduce SO2 emissions. Every Acid Rain Program operating permit outlines specific requirements and compliance options chosen by each source. Affected utilities also were required to install systems that continuously monitor emissions of SO2, NOx, and other related pollutants in order to track progress, ensure compliance, and provide credibility to the trading component of the program. Monitoring data is transmitted to EPA daily via telecommunications systems.

Strategies for compliance with air quality controls have been major components of electric utility planning and operations since the mid-1970s, affecting choice of fuels, technologies and locations for construction of new generating capacity. Utility strategies for compliance with new sulfur dioxide standards included a mix of options with varying financial costs:

* several existing and new stack-gas scrubbing and clean coal technologies;
* switching to all, or blending high-sulfur coal with, low-sulfur coal;
* switching to all natural gas, or cofiring coal and natural gas;
* "trimming," or reducing annual hours of plant utilization;
* retiring old units;
* repowering existing units with new coal or non-coal boilers;
* purchasing or transferring emissions allowances from other units;
* increasing demand-side management and conservation; or
* bulk power purchases from other utilities or non-utility generators from units using coal or other fuels.

Some coal cleaning may occur in combination with other actions such as scrubbing, or blending coals with varying sulfur content, but utilities generally prefer that coal suppliers bear the costs of cleaning operations. Some observers estimated 20% - 30% of the sulfur can be removed through coal cleaning or blending, and 50% - 70% taken out with emissions control equipment.

For Phase II compliance the options were numerous, but for Phase I they were constrained by the time available to implement a decision. Because it takes 3–5 years to design and build a scrubber at an existing coal-fired unit, and longer to repower or build a new facility (e.g., 6–11 years for coal, 10–14 years for nuclear units), electric utility decision options for Phase I plants were limited to scrubbing, switching fuels, purchasing or transferring emissions allowances to allow continued use of high-sulfur coal, retiring units, or trimming unit utilization and substituting capacity from another source.

Delays in allocating "early scrub" bonus credits and scheduling of the first auction of emissions allowances in March 1993 effectively removed these incentives from actual compliance decision making of most electric utilities. Because of the time it takes to build air pollution control equipment, financial and contractual commitments to scrubbers had to be made by summer 1992 if plant modifications were to be operational in time to meet new standards in 1995. Thus, decisions had to be made before price and allocation of emissions allowances were known. Consequently, most scrubber projects to meet the 1995 deadline were well under way by fall of 1992.


Of the 261 units at 110 plant locations affected by Phase I emission limitations, five were oil-fired, five coal-fired units were retired, and one coal-fired unit was placed on cold standby status prior to passage of the legislation in 1990. The 6 inactive coal-fired units were statutory recipients of a total of 36,020 tons of Phase I sulfur dioxide emissions allowances.

This marketable windfall was estimated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in 1991 to be worth $665 to $736 per ton, totaling $23.9 to $26.5 million. However, actual purchases of emissions allowances in 1992 were reported at a lower price than expected of $300 per ton.Allowances auctioned in March 1993 sold for $122 to $450 per ton, reducing the windfall from these allowances to $4.4 to $16.2 million. In the interim, owners of one unit retired in 1985, the 119 MWe Des Moines Energy Center, received $93 million in DOE funding for a Clean Coal Technology project to repower with a coal-fired 70 MWe pressurized fluidized-bed combustion unit, bringing it back into production in 1996.

Location of generating units

Excluding those 11 units, 250 active coal-fired units at 105 plants in 21 states were subject to Phase I sulfur dioxide emissions reductions in 1995. States having the greatest number of generating units affected by the Phase I requirements were: Ohio (40), Indiana (37), Pennsylvania (21), Georgia (19), Tennessee (19), Kentucky (17), Illinois (17), Missouri (16) and West Virginia (14). Together, Phase I units represented 20% of the 1,250 operable coal-fired generating units in the U.S. in 1990.

These 250 units had a summer peak generating capability of 79,162 MWe in 1990, with a mean of 317 MWe/unit. This capacity represented about 27% of installed summer coal-fired capability, and about 11.5% of total U.S. installed summer generating capability in 1990. About 207 million tons, almost 90% of the coal purchased by Phase I plants in 1990, produced sulfur dioxide emissions exceeding the 1995 emissions rate of 2.5 lbs/mm Btu using no pollution control equipment.

Age matters

Age of the 250 Phase I coal units ranged from 17 to 46 years when the standards took effect, with a mean of 34 years. In 1995, 111 active Phase I units (23%) were 35 years of age or older, and only 8 (6%) were less than 20 years old. The average age of 35 coal-fired units retired during 1988-1991 was 44.6 years, with a range of 14–74 years. These units ranged in size from 1-107 MWe summer capability. Several had been on standby (e.g., available for use during regularly scheduled outages of other units for maintenance) for many years prior to retirement. About half (often the older units) were designed to "cofire" with natural gas or fuel oil, and could be operated using these fuels instead of coal if desired.

Both the number and average age of coal-fired units retired increased substantially from 1988 to 1991, indicating utilities were removing very old units from available status that they no longer expected to use, thereby avoiding maintenance costs necessary to keep them on standby. For comparison, the 6 Phase I coal units retired before 1990 ranged in age from 21–35 years when taken out of service, with a mean of 31 years.

Age of these units was significant for several reasons. All of the Phase I units were either built or under construction when the Clean Air Act of 1977 was enacted, and all but eight were built or under construction when the 1970 Act was enacted. Consequently, these units were built when labor costs were significantly less than in the 1990s, and they avoided major investments in pollution control equipment. In the 1990s, these units were often among the least expensive of any operated by their respective owners, in terms of cost per megawatt-hour of energy produced. Compared to other plants on a utility company system, these units provided incentives for their owners to maximize operating time, minimize downtime for repairs or retrofit, and minimize further capital investments in them.

Because capital in such plants is typically amortized over 20–30 years, investments in most of them were fully recovered by 1995. Justifying large additional capital investments in plants which may have a remaining useful life of 10 years or less, absent reconstruction of boilers, is often difficult. Further, because large coal-fired generating units tend to reach peak operating and combustion efficiencies during the first three years of operation, declining incrementally thereafter throughout their lifetimes, these old plants were among the dirtiest sources of air pollution in the electric utility industry. They were able to operate for many years without substantially reducing emissions, when other plants were required to install "best available" air pollution control equipment pursuant to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977.


Uncertainties confronting electric utilities when planning compliance strategies were substantial. These included the future price and availability of fuels; the value of emissions allowances and operation of markets for them; the manner in which state public utility commissions and the Internal Revenue Service would allocate the costs of scrubbing or switching fuels and the value of emissions allowances; accounting guidelines, revisions to interstate bulk power sales contracts, and possible intervention by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in interstate transfers of emissions allowances by multi-state holding companies. Changes in the competitiveness of various generating and pollution control technologies; a myriad of new rule making actions required by the Clean Air Act; and the possibility of new legislation limiting emissions of carbon dioxide, imposing a tax on carbon emissions, or on Btu usage were also of great concern. A final rule easing some uncertainty on continuous emissions monitoring, permit requirements, and operation of the emissions allowance system was not issued until January 1993, well after compliance strategies had to be developed and major investment decisions made.

In this context, utility executives were required to make investment decisions committing millions of dollars over extended periods. As summarized by one utility manager: "Major decisions must be made without adequate information or even the ability to obtain adequate information." For example, after a protracted struggle involving the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, the Ohio Office of Consumer's Counsel, industrial customers, the Ohio Sierra Club, and the United Mine Workers at American Electric Power Company's affiliate Meigs high-sulfur coal mines, construction of scrubbers by AEP at its two-unit, 2,600 MWe Gavin plant in Ohio were expected to cost about $835 million, reducing sulfur dioxide emissions there by 95%. In February 1993, AEP was still unsure whether it would be allowed by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission to transfer emissions credits from the Gavin scrub to Phase I units in other states.Thus, substantial financial commitments had to be made on the basis of best judgments by utility planners and construction begun in the absence of definitive information or final regulatory approvals.

Innovations in coal supply contracts

The risks associated with such uncertainty stimulated innovation in contracts for purchase of coal by electric utilities. In a buyers market, utilities renegotiated old contracts and signed new ones with a variety of provisions designed to manage risks and increase flexibility for future decisions. For example, Ohio Edison signed "high/low" contracts at the end of 1991 with three coal suppliers. Under these agreements, the utility could elect to shift purchases from high-sulfur to low-sulfur coal produced by the same supplier. The supplier retained the option of continuing to ship high-sulfur coal in lieu of low-sulfur coal if it provided sufficient emissions allowances so this coal could be burned without penalty. In this event, the supplier paid for the allowances, and the utility paid the contract price for lower sulfur coal.

Additional innovative contract terms under consideration would link price premiums and penalties paid for coal with different levels of sulfur content to changes in the market price of sulfur dioxide emissions allowances; trade emissions allowances to coal suppliers as partial payment for low-sulfur coal; or establish larger variances in quantity and prices for different qualities of coal in a single contract. AMAX Energy purchased an undisclosed number of emissions allowances from Long Island Lighting Co., which it said it would offer in packages with its coal and natural gas contracts. Thus, coal suppliers began participating along with electric utilities as buyers and sellers of marketable sulfur dioxide emissions allowances.