New tests can detect tiny, toxic particles of coal ash in soil

Scientists at Duke University have developed a suite of four new tests that can be used to detect coal ash contamination with unprecedented sensitivity.

The tests are specially designed to analyze soil for the presence of fly ash particles, the grains can be so small that other tests will not detect them.

Fly ash is the fraction of coal combustion residues (CCR) that forms when a power plant burns pulverized coal. Tiny particles of fly ash, which are often microscopic in size, contain high concentrations of arsenic, selenium and other toxic elements.

Most of the fly ash is captured by traps at the power plant, then the hall is disposed of in warehouses, but the other part is quite small, so it flies into the environment. Over time, these particles can accumulate in the leeward soil and affect plant and human health.

When the soil contaminated with fly ash is deformed for some reason, dust containing ash can fly through the air to nearby houses and other rooms. If a person regularly inhales this dust, he can get diseases of the lungs, heart, in particular, cancer or a disorder of the nervous system.

Due to the size of these particles, they were difficult to detect and measure. Our new methods enable us to do this with a high degree of confidence.

Avner Vengosch, Professor of Environmental Quality at the Nicholas Duke School of Environment

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Alexandr Ivanov earned his Licentiate Engineer in Systems and Computer Engineering from the Free International University of Moldova. Since 2013, Alexandr has been working as a freelance web programmer.
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