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Coal Ash: Toxic – and Leaking
Coal ash – the waste material left after coal is burned – contains arsenic, mercury, lead, and over a dozen other heavy metals, many of them toxic. And disposal of the growing mounds of coal ash is creating grave risks to human health.
Toxic constituents of coal ash are blowing, spilling and leaching (dissolving and percolating) from storage units into air, land and human drinking water, posing an acute risk of cancer and neurological effects as well as many other negative health impacts: heart damage, lung disease, kidney disease, reproductive problems, gastrointestinal illness, birth defects, and impaired bone growth in children.
This ash, which is generated at coal-fired power plants across the country, is the second-largest industrial waste stream in the country.
Coal Ash Resources
PSR offers several valuable resources on coal ash and its damaging effects on health:
- PSR’s report, Coal Ash: The Toxic Threat to our Health and Environment, provides a comprehensive overview of the issue: the threats coal ash poses to human health, examples of damage cases, problems with disposal, and recommendations for health-protective policy.
- Selling Our Health Down the River, coauthored by PSR with four other organizations, focuses on coal ash contamination of rivers and other waterways.
- This white paper, EPA's Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash, written with Earthjustice and Environmental Integrity Project, focuses on a highly carcinogenic material frequently found in coal ash.
- For quick background basics, this PSR Q&A coal ash fact sheet summarizes what coal ash is, how it is stored, and its risks to human health.
- This PSR fact sheet provides quick information on the damage to health from six toxics in coal ash.
Page Updated September 20, 2016
Clean Water Rule Fact Sheet
The Clean Water Rule (CWR) protects the nation's rain-dependent streams and wetlands from toxic pollution under the Clean Water Act. Read more »
PSR Expert Testimony on Coal Ash
Chesapeake PSR is suing the EPA over a proposed delay in a rule that slashes coal ash waste discharges into rivers and streams. PSR National Environment & Health Director Barbara Gottlieb gave expert testimony on the health impacts of coal ash disposal. Read more »
Barbara Gottlieb's Testimony on EPA Methane Standards
On July 10, 2017, PSR Environment & Health Director Barbara Gottlieb testified before the EPA against a proposed rollback of a methane regulation that would reduce leaks from oil and gas wells. Read more »