Skip to main
University-wide Navigation

The EPI/BST department is hosting a seminar titled, "Coal ash, heavy metal(loid)s and neurobehavioral health in children living near coal-fired power plants with coal ash storage facilities" presented by Kristina M. Zierold, PhD, MS, Environmental Health Sciences Associate Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health.

Coal ash, a waste product generated when burning coal for energy, is one of the largest waste streams in the United States.

Throughout the world in 2016, over 1.2 billon tons of coal ash was generated, with the US ranking fourth in the world for production (>78 million tons). The predominate component of coal ash is fly ash; particles that are spherical and range in diameter from <0.1 μm to >100 μm. Fly ash is collected in air pollution control devices and dumped into landfills and ponds, frequently near low income and marginalized communities. Children can be exposed to fly ash emitted from the stack and from fugitive dust emissions from the storage facilities.

Fly ash is primarily comprised of silicon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, and calcium but it also contains trace concentrations of neurotoxic metal(loid)s. To date, limited health studies have been conducted investigating the impact of fly ash on communities. Most studies have utilized location as a proxy for exposure.

This seminar will discuss on-going research investigating children’s exposure to fly ash and metal(loid)s and neurobehavioral outcomes. Fly ash was collected in-homes of children aged 6-14 years old, living within 10 miles of two coal-fired power plants with coal ash storage sites in Jefferson and Bullitt counties in Kentucky. Toenails were collected from children to assess metal(loid) exposure. Neurobehavioral symptoms and problems were determined through a computerized testing device and the Child Behavior Checklist.

Findings from this cross-sectional study will be discussed.