PEER hits coal waste in building products

Bill Walsh | August 19, 2010

If you have been working to eliminate mercury exposure and contamination, it is well worth reading the comments filed yesterday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (http://www.peer.org) objecting to EPA's proposal to promote the beneficial use of coal ash wastes in a wide array of products from cement to cosmetics.

As a PEER website catalogues, "coal ash is everywhere." In the built environment, coal ash is present in a wide array of materials, from carpet backing to acoustical ceiling tiles.

The concern is that the ubiquitous use of 60 million tons of coal ash annually as "recycled content" violates the precautionary principle because the environmental and health consequences of the mercury content of the ash being mixed into so many products are unknown and largely have not been investigated.  Not incidentally, PEER argues that by promoting the beneficial use of coal ash wastes the federal government is also undermining efforts to reduce the amount of coal burned for energy in the US.  The comments cite (beginning at p.12) research by Jim Vallette from our Pharos Project documenting mercury emissions from factories manufacturing gypsum wallboard, a.k.a. "sheetrock," using ash wastes generated by the stack desulfurization process at coal burning power plants.

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Earthbeat Radio is broadcasting an encore edition of a talk with Pharos senior researcher Jim Vallette.  "As the 5th anniversary of Hurrance Katrina and Hurricane Rita approaches, Jim explains how imported toxic drywall poses health risks for Gulf Coast survivors as they attempt to rebuild their homes and lives."