Protocol for measuring indoor exposure to coal fly ash and heavy metals, and neurobehavioural symptoms in children aged 6 to 14 years old

Academic Article


  • INTRODUCTION: Fly ash is a waste product generated from burning coal for electricity. It is comprised of spherical particles ranging in size from 0.1 µm to over 100 µm in diameter that contain trace levels of heavy metals. Large countries such as China and India generate over 100 million tons per year while smaller countries like Italy and France generate 2 to 3 million tons per year. The USA generates over 36 million tons of ash, making it one of the largest industrial waste streams in the nation. Fly ash is stored in landfills and surface impoundments exposing communities to fugitive dust and heavy metals that leach into the groundwater. Limited information exists on the health impact of exposure to fly ash. This protocol represents the first research to assess children's exposure to coal fly ash and neurobehavioural outcomes. METHODS: We measure indoor exposure to fly ash and heavy metals, and neurobehavioural symptoms in children aged 6 to 14 years old. Using air pollution samplers and lift tape samples, we collect particulate matter ≤10 µm that is analysed for fly ash and heavy metals. Toenails and fingernails are collected to assess body burden for 72 chemical elements. Using the Behavioural Assessment and Research System and the Child Behaviour Checklist, we collect information on neurobehavioural outcomes. Data collection began in September 2015 and will continue until February 2021. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: This study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of the University of Louisville (#14.1069) and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (#300003807). We have collected data from 267 children who live within 10 miles of two power plants. Children are at a greater risk for environmental exposure which justifies the rationale for this study. Results of this study will be distributed at conferences, in peer-reviewed journals and to the participants of the study.
  • Published In

  • BMJ Open  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Zierold KM; Sears CG; Hagemeyer AN; Brock GN; Polivka BJ; Zhang CH; Sears L
  • Start Page

  • e038960
  • Volume

  • 10
  • Issue

  • 11