New pollution-fighting equipment installed on coal-fired power plants is saving thousands of lives every year, but the Environmental Protection Agency could prevent even more deaths with stepped up regulation, according to a new study conducted for the Clean Air Task Force.

The non-profit research and advocacy group said that plant “scrubbers” — devices that remove pollutants from coal plant emissions — installed at about 130 sites since 2004 already have improved air quality dramatically. In all, the organization said, the devices will prevent an estimated 11,000 premature deaths this year.

Still, many more plants need to be pushed to adopt the technology, the group said. The study said several hundred U.S. coal-fired power plants operate without the scrubbers, and air pollution from the facilities this year is expected to cost about 13,200 lives.

As the online publication njtoday.net reported, the American Lung Association agreed that coal plant pollution still poses a major hazard. “From asthma attacks to premature deaths, air pollution from power plants still causes far too much harm to public health. This report makes clear that we must have strong rules to reduce air pollution, ” said Janice Nolen, a policy official with the association.

The study explained that coal-fired power plants remain among the top contributors to the fine particle pollution, or soot, that is linked to health hazards such as heart disease and lung cancer. Some of the most dangerous contributors to fine particle pollution, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, are byproducts of coal combustion.

The highest death tolls related to coal plants are expected in large cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Pittsburgh in 2010. On a per capita basis, the Johnstown, Pa., and Cumberland, Md., areas were projected to have the worst death figures.

Clean Air Task Force, which shows the anticipated effects of coal plants on different states here, conducted similar studies in 2000 and 2004.