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Coal ash is the waste that remains when coal is burned. It is usually collected in a dump, known as a pond. North Carolina has more than 30 such sites in 14 different locations across the state. A pipe running under one of the ponds run by Duke Energy in Eden NC ruptured in February of 2014. The coal ash spilled, largely affecting the Dan River which flows into Virginia. The spill is the third largest of its kind in U.S. history.Many see potential complications because North Carolina's governor, Pat McCrory, worked for Duke Energy for 28 years.

The Link Between Coal Ash And Human Health

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

How does coal ash impact human health? A new review of existing research shows a link between living close to a coal power plant or coal ash pond and higher risks of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as higher risks of premature mortality, lung cancer, infant mortality, and poor child health. The research does not draw a direct link between these conditions and coal ash. 

Dr. Julia Kravchenko and Dr. Kim Lyerly share their review with host Frank Stasio. Dr. Kravchenko is an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at Duke University. Dr. Lyerly is a professor of surgery, immunology, and pathology and the director of the Environmental Health Scholars Program at Duke.

Stasio also talks to Avner Vengosh about coal ash and how it comes into contact with humans. Vengosh is a professor of water quality and geochemistry at Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment.

Richard Kinch joins the conversation as well. He is a former chief of operations involving coal ash at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a member of the advisory board for Duke Energy. Dr. Kravchenko and Dr. Lyerly will be at the 2018 Fall Forum on Health and the Environment at the JB Duke Hotel in Durham on Nov. 1 and 2. 

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