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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.
In the Spotlight
September 28, 2016
Speaking Tour: Heat Advisory
PSR's Dr. Alan Lockwood will visit 6 states this fall to highlight the health effects of climate change and speak about his new book, Heat Advisory.