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Your Environment. Your Health.

From Mountaintop Mining to Coal Ash: Understanding Possible Health Implications

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

December 12, 2017

Coal Ash Truck

Mountaintop removal mining often results in dust and flyrock and necessitates disposal of “overburden” and slurry into spoil piles and underground stores, respectively. Human health impacts in the communities surrounding these mines may arise from drinking contaminated groundwater, contact with contaminated streams, and inhalation of airborne chemicals and dust (see the National Toxicology Program report). Coal ash is generated when power plants burn coal for energy, and most of the ash is stored in open landfills or ponds. Coal ash includes many components, but fly ash, which comprises small, spherical particles, is the greatest component. The composition of fly ash varies, but it frequently contains toxic metals (e.g., arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, manganese, and mercury), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and radioactive elements. Our presenters discussed their ongoing work to understand and communicate the potential health effects from these exposures.



Michael Hendryx, Ph.D.

Michael Hendryx, Ph.D., is a professor of environmental and occupational health at Indiana University Bloomington. His research examines health disparities – especially uneven environmental exposures – faced by socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, and much of his work focuses on those who live in coal mining areas of Appalachia. His work has drawn wide attention and has been discussed in media outlets such Living on Earth and the PBS NewsHour, among others. He is currently Principal Investigator for an NIEHS-funded grant titled “Assessing Air Pollution Exposures Among a Vulnerable Rural Disparities Population".

Kristina Zierold, Ph.D.

Kristina Zierold, Ph.D., is an associate professor of epidemiology and population health at the University of Louisville. Her research involves applying epidemiology and environmental and occupational health methods and concepts to community-based problems. Her specific interests include children’s environmental health, safety and health issues in working children and adolescents, adverse outcomes from heavy metals exposure and particulate exposure, environmental and social justice, air pollution modeling, and community-based research. She is currently Principal Investigator for an NIEHS-funded grant titled “Coal Ash and Neurobehavioral Symptoms in Children Aged 6-14 Years Old".

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