Share this Post:

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

Tr-Ash Talk: A is for Arsenic


    SIGN-UP for our latest news and action alerts:
   Please leave this field empty

Facebook Fans

Related Blog Entries

by Lisa Evans:
TVA Five Years Later—Lessons Not Learned

It’s been almost five years since the TVA Kingston coal ash disaster blanketed an idyllic riverfront community in toxic waste. I revisited the ...

by Andrea Delgado:
Tr-Ash Talk: Penn. Latinos Endure Toxic Neighbor

In northeast Pennsylvania, about an hour northwest of Allentown, lies Hazleton, a city with the dubious reputation of enacting ordinances that fueled ...

by Allie Eisen:
North Carolina Coal Ash Pollution and the Frankenbill

There is a running joke in my hometown about the glowing green fish and three-headed salamanders in Lake Julian. Nestled in the center of Arden, North...

Earthjustice on Twitter

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
12 January 2011, 2:17 PM
Scientists Allege EPA Underestimated Risk

(The following is the first in a weekly series of 50 upcoming Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste.)

Arsenic, one of the most potent poisons known to man, is found in coal ash. It is well documented that coal ash leaks dangerous quantities of arsenic to drinking water when dumped in unlined pits and ponds. In fact, in an EPA analysis the agency acknowledges that people living near unlined coal ash ponds can face as much as a one-in-50 chance of getting cancer from drinking water contaminated by arsenic. This risk is 2,000 times greater than the EPA’s goal for reducing cancer risk to one-in-100,000. Yet, four renowned arsenic experts found that this EPA risk assessment underestimates the risk of cancer from arsenic by a factor of over 17 times.

In a letter to EPA, medical toxicologist Dr. Michael Kosnett along with three senior scientists explain that the EPA relied on an outdated “cancer slope factor” (CSF) that is 17.3 times less than the updated CSF for arsenic. The scientists therefore recommend revision of the EPA’s risk estimates.

The outdated cancer slope factor used by the EPA, which was first published in 1988, is based on a study of skin cancer in a population ingesting arsenic in drinking water. Arsenic is now known to cause bladder and lung cancer, as well.  Outrageously, multiple offices of EPA and the broader scientific community acknowledge that the 1988 cancer slope factor greatly underestimates actual cancer risk.  In fact, in an EPA analysis dated April 2010, the agency explicitly states that the 1988 “skin cancer based risk assessments no longer represent the current state of the science for health risk assessment for arsenic.”

Clearly, the EPA must update its risk assessment for coal ash to reflect the greater danger posed by arsenic in ash.  Failure to use the best available science in its upcoming rulemaking on coal ash would be a fatal mistake – and an injustice to the thousands of communities living near coal ash dumps. 

The extraordinary cooperativeness of federal and state regulatory agencies is being bought with coal dollars, and abetted by pro-industry puppeteers with their hands on Obama’s strings. The coal industry’s growing list of paid apologists now includes CNN, which, according to the following After the Press video report, aired a story recently about a giant coal ash dump on the W. Va./Penn border – with the “report” in fact sponsored by an airbrushed spot for The Coalition for Clean Coal.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Lwr2SA5Pec

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <p> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <blockquote>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.