Coal Ash Linked to Preterm Births

Oil and coal power plants continue to be linked to preterm births, birth defects, and reproductive complications.

A study that examined the closing of six oil and two coal power plants in California actually discovered a decrease in preterm births among women who lived nearby, researchers from the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health reported.

Using data collected from 2001 to 2011, the study found that preterm birth rates among women exposed to the highest amounts of pollution from the eight plants fell to 5.1% after the plants had closed, from 7% previously.

Researchers analyzed environmental air monitoring data from the two years before and one year after each plant had closed. They also used address records for 57,000 births that took place within 12.4 miles of the plants. A normal pregnancy lasts roughly 39 to 40 weeks, with births before 37 weeks considered preterm. The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The study’s authors noted that burning oil and coal release pollution particles into the air, some of which are small enough to penetrate into the body, including the lungs and bloodstream. They also emit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide gasses as well as benzene, lead, mercury, and other harmful substances. The heavy metals and radioactive materials are associated with some of the most prevalent and severe diseases, particularly birth defects resulting from toxic exposure of mothers and fathers.

Dangerous Chemicals and Toxins in Coal Ash

Study after study cites the dangerous chemicals and toxins in coal ash, yet the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to refuse to classify it as a hazardous waste. This inaction effectively denies workers certain protections that would be guaranteed to them and serves as a financial advantage for industries emitting coal ash.

The EPA also egregiously failed to take considerable action in the nation’s largest-ever coal ash spill, which occurred in 2008 in Tennessee. Jacobs Engineering Group, a construction and services firm, refused to provide safety equipment for over 900 workers sent to clean up hazardous materials in the spill. Investigative reporting reveals that the company purposefully lied to the employees, telling them that they could safely consume “a pound of coal ash a day” without any impact on their health. When workers demanded respiratory protective gear like masks, Jacobs Engineering immediately fired them.

Intentional Negligence 

More than 400 illnesses and 41 deaths have been linked to the toxic exposure at the ash spill cleanup site in Tennessee. Victims and their families believe that Jacobs Engineering Group must be held responsible for their intentional negligence.

In one of the lawsuits, a federal jury ruled that the company had breached its contract and its duty to protect the workers. The company was further denied the request to appeal the lawsuit in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That’s little solace to the victims and their families, whose lives have been shattered.

Coal Ash’s Devastation on Human Health

About 140 million tons of coal ash are generated annually across the United States. In fact, coal ash is the second-largest industrial waste stream in the country. The heavy metals and radioactive materials found in coal ash are often associated with some of our most prevalent and severe diseases, including birth defects following toxic exposure of mothers and fathers. Other illnesses include lung cancer, heart damage, respiratory distress and reproductive problems.

It is important to hold coal ash-producing companies accountable. As attorneys at law, we are committed to helping people who have been in contact with the dangerous substance known to cause birth defects. Just as the plaintiffs who filed and won against Jacobs Engineering Group believed, it is also crucial to demand protections that will prevent future injuries.

How We Help Victims of Toxic Exposure

The attorneys of our birth defects victims alliance understand the pain that families face when coping with life-altering birth defects—and the frustration of knowing they could have been prevented. Our team has over 30 years of combined experience in birth defects litigation in cases involving toxic exposure. We have the resources and experience to fight on behalf of our clients against corporations who put them in danger. Call us to see how we can help you and your family receive justice for birth defects.