Even when it’s sitting in storage, coal threatens human health

The storage and handling of coal piles could be contributing to the burden of particulate matter from coal, even before it is burned, according to research from Carnegie Mellon University.

The quantity of coal stored at 236 US coal-fired power plants was associated with significantly increased PM2.5­ within 25 miles of the plants. PM can be produced directly from coal stockpiles by suspension of fine coal dust, through transport and handling processes which include unloading and crushing, and also indirectly through the emission of volatile compounds which go on to form secondary organic aerosol. Although the analysis focused on power plants, coal transport on (typically uncovered) trains, and storage near shipping ports and mines may also lead to enhanced pollution from these emissions.

While several processes, not least including coal burning, are legislated for with respect to emissions, storage and handling are not currently regulated. Covering coal storage and transport facilities and revising handling processes could protect the health of those living near these facilities, often disproportionately the poorest in society.

Click here for the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle