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Tr-Ash Talk: Is There Something In Missouri's Water?

In Missouri, rape apparently does not cause pregnancy, and it’s OK for children to eat coal ash.

When Missouri Republican Todd Akin said last August that “legitimate rape” rarely results in conception, the congressman caused quite a stir—and this offensive nonsense, broadcast coast to coast, likely cost him a Senate seat.

More provocative baloney was recently heard in Missouri—this time from toxicologist Lisa Bradley about the safety of children eating coal ash—the waste produced by burning coal.  Never mind that coal ash contains an alphabet soup of toxic trash, such as arsenic, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury and a dozen other hazardous metals, Dr. Bradley testified at a public hearing in Union, MO that “a child could consume coal ash every day and have no increased exposure to arsenic.”

Dr. Bradley is a vice president and senior toxicologist at AECOM, a prominent international consulting firm that has received numerous contracts to investigate coal ash sites, including controversial investigations of the Kingston TVA disaster and the Town of Pines Superfund Site.

Ameren's Labadie power plant,
on the Missouri River.
(Courtesy of Labadie Environmental Organization)

Her massively misguided missive might have been forgotten, except that last Friday a judge relied on her statement in ruling against a public interest group, Labadie Environmental Organization, who are contesting the construction of a 400-acre, 100-foot tall coal ash landfill in the floodplain of the Missouri River. The landfill, they argue, poses an unreasonable risk of poisoning groundwater, polluting the Missouri River, and elevating the risk of flooding.

In Friday’s decision, the judge specifically cited the toxicologist’s outrageous testimony. Bradley’s willingness to grossly minimize the threat to human health may be related to her seat on the Executive Committee of the American Coal Ash Association (ACAA) the lobbying organization whose membership includes all major coal-burners, including Duke, Southern Company and Ameren, the utility that is fighting to build the landfill in the Missouri floodplain. Bradley is also the same toxicologist who penned the ACAA’s junk science report in June 2012, which claimed that coal ash is as safe as “common dirt.”

Unfortunately, this is not the first time doctors have publicly belittled the risk of eating arsenic-laden ash. Bradley’s statement is reminiscent of the 2009 Congressional testimony of Dr. Donald McGraw, dubbed “Dr. Arsenic,” whose similar remark earned him more than 5,600 hits on You Tube:

This is, however, the first time a toxicologist has publicly and unequivocally stated that coal ash is safe for children to eat daily, and it’s a giant step too far. Dr. Bradley may be playing word games here, as the issue is not the direct consumption of coal ash, but the leaching of toxic metals like arsenic into water that is then consumed by communities unfortunate enough to live near coal ash dumps. Water that has come into contact with ash has been found to contain poisonous levels of arsenic, hexavalent chromium, lead and other pollutants—at more than 200 sites across the nation. Undoubtedly, Bradley has seen the data.

But like former Congressman Akin, Dr. Bradley prefers to make dangerous public statements that obscure the truth and promote the policies of her supporters. Yet lies are like vampires—bright light is deadly.

Missouri is the 'show me' state. Show the American public the data supporting the claim that children can eat coal ash every day without harm. And then show us the children on which you’d like to test your theory.