Burning coal creates a wide range of pollutants. Arsenic is one of the more toxic byproducts found in coal ash. This is a potent carcinogenic that aggregates in living tissue and concentrates as it goes up the food chain. The EPA says even 10 parts per billion are dangerous to human health.
But a single accident, the Kingston coal spill in 2008, dumped 140,000 pounds of arsenic into the Emory River in just one day, doubling the annual amount from all other US coal plants combined.
In 2014, the last time this data was released, US coal plants released 78,000 pounds of arsenic. This works out to 0.05 pounds for every 1,000,000 kilowatt hours (GWh).
Download the full spreadsheet from the link in the bottom right side of the embedded Excel sheet.
This analysis is referenced in Straight facts on the environmental impact of coal: CO2, pollution, land, and water.
- USGS deep dive into Arsenic in coal: https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2005/3152/fs2005-3152.pdf
- CDC data on arsenic: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp.asp?id=22&tid=3
Code: m137 kWhCoalArsenic math xbMath