Nail Samples of Children Living near Coal Ash Storage Facilities Suggest Fly Ash Exposure and Elevated Concentrations of Metal(loid)s

Academic Article


  • Children who live near coal-fired power plants are exposed to coal fly ash, which is stored in landfills and surface impoundments near residential communities. Fly ash has the potential to be released as fugitive dust. Using data collected from 263 children living within 10 miles of coal ash storage facilities in Jefferson and Bullitt Counties, Kentucky, USA, we quantified the elements found in nail samples. Furthermore, using principal component analysis (PCA), we investigated whether metal(loid)s that are predominately found in fly ash loaded together to indicate potential exposure to fly ash. Concentrations of several neurotoxic metal(loid)s, such as chromium, manganese, and zinc, were higher than concentrations reported in other studies of both healthy and environmentally exposed children. From PCA, it was determined that iron, aluminum, and silicon in fly ash were found to load together in the nails of children living near coal ash storage facilities. These metal(loid)s were also highly correlated with each other. Last, results of geospatial analyses partially validated our hypothesis that children’s proximity to power plants was associated with elevated levels of concentrations of fly ash metal(loid)s in nails. Taken together, nail samples may be a powerful tool in detecting exposure to fly ash.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Zierold KM; Myers JV; Brock GN; Sears CG; Sears LL; Zhang CH
  • Start Page

  • 9074
  • End Page

  • 9086
  • Volume

  • 55
  • Issue

  • 13