Article alleges health risks for coal ash workers

Published 10:29 am Monday, June 26, 2017

To the Editor:

Less than a year ago, in July 2016, Kristin Lombardi wrote an article for the Center for Public Integrity entitled “Former Cleanup Workers Blame Illnesses on Toxic Coal Ash Exposure”. The Center for Public Integrity is a non-profit, nonpartisan investigative news organization that has won two Pulitzer Prizes for its investigative journalism.

This article contains personal stories of people working in coal ash jobs who have suffered serious health issues. Some of the jobs mentioned in the article are: backhoe operator, welders, laborers, truck drivers, and heavy equipment operators. Some of the health issues mentioned in the article are: respiratory problems, chronic bronchitis, COPD, cancers, skin irritations, leukemia and neurological problems.  “A frightening stew of chemicals” were found in urine samples and “high levels of lead” were found in blood samples of some of the workers.

Kristin Lombardi writes: “Scientists and physicians say the biggest threat to human health –- be it workers or anyone else —  is airborne coal ash dust. Because the ash is often fine and powdery, its particles can blow off dump trucks and disposal piles, easily becoming re-suspended in the air.”

Experts say this “fugitive dust” is extremely dangerous. It can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin or ingested.” “…Fine ash particles can adhere to the lungs and penetrate deep into the body. Many of these particles contain silica…, as well as metals such as arsenic, chromium and cadmium, which can cause pulmonary and neurological problems and cancer.”

Quoting Lombardi`s article: “Gottlieb`s 2010 report … concludes that these coal ash toxics have the potential to injure all of the major organ systems, damage physical health and development, and even contribute to mortality.”

The health risks to those who choose to work in coal ash are disturbing, but what`s equally as disturbing is the fact that they really haven`t studied those risks in depth yet.

According to Lombardi, “No one has done a comprehensive study on the health consequences of coal ash for the untold thousands handling the waste daily.”

Lombardi also states, “Overwhelmingly, the body of research on coal ash has examined its risks to the environment and the health of communities…not workers.”

“This whole question of worker exposure has been vastly underexplored,` says Barbara Gottlieb, the environment and health director at Physicians for Social Responsibility…There is scant information available on those working at regulated coal ash dumps, she says…”

Despite the documentation about the health risks, people are being led to believe that coal ash jobs are going to be safe.

In this article, Lombardi reports: “…the workers say they were led to believe the ash was safe.”

Realize that while coal ash has been labeled by the EPA as Non-Hazardous, that doesn’t mean it isn`t “TOXIC”. Google this article entitled: “FORMER CLEANUP WORKERS BLAME ILLNESSES ON TOXIC COAL ASH EXPOSURES” by Kim Lombardi and read for yourself.

Consider: Are these really the kind of jobs that we want for ourselves, our families, our neighbors or any of our citizens?                                                                                                          

Wanda Flythe