A study from a university in the US has found radioactive contaminants in coal ash.
The research led by Duke University discovered them in three coal-producing basins in the country.
They revealed levels of radioactivity in the ash were up to five times higher than in normal soil and up to 10 times higher than in coal.
That’s because combustion concentrates radioactivity, it stated.
Avner Vengosh, Professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment said: “Until now metals and contaminants such as selenium and arsenic have been the major known contaminants of concern in coal ash. This study raises the possibility we should also be looking for radioactive elements such as radium isotopes and lead-210 and including them in our monitoring efforts.”
He added coal ash disposal sites are currently not monitored for radioactivity.
Professor Vengosh said: “We don’t know how much of these contaminants are released to the environment and how they might affect human health in areas where coal ash ponds and landfills are leaking. Our study opens the door for future evaluation of this potential risk.”