"Coal ash samples show that the spilled sludge at TVA’s Kingston power plant contained high levels of arsenic, mercury, and radioactive radium, according to a Duke University study.
As the ash dries, it can become airborne and be inhaled, with the smallest bits carrying the highest levels of toxic materials, a researcher said in a Duke report by Tim Lucas.
'Our study highlights the high probability that as the ash dries, fine particulates enriched with these elements will be re-suspended in the air as dust and could have a severe health impact on local residents or workers who inhale them,' said Avner Vengosh, an associate professor of earth and ocean sciences.
'The smaller the particulate, the higher the concentration of trace metals and radioactivity it contains. Particulates small enough to be inhaled into the lungs could potentially have tenfold the concentration of these elements as the samples we measured.'"