Local study measures health risks for children living near coal ash

Published: Jun. 2, 2017 at 9:57 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2017 at 9:21 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Researchers at the University of Louisville are studying the dangers of living near a coal ash pond. Their study focuses on children living in southwest Louisville and Bullitt County, and is measuring the impact coal ash may have on their health.

Kristina Zierold is leading the study that looks within 10 miles of two energy plants that store coal ash, LG&E's Cane Run and Mill Creek.

Amy Ferebee and her eight-year-old daughter, Kiera moved near Mill Creek four years ago.

"I was just curious to see if there was something in our system that shouldn't be there," Ferebee said.

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Ferebee said she's noticed a change in her family's health. The view of smoke stacks close to her home made her wonder if there was a correlation.

"I know since we have moved in, our allergies, my health, other things have been triggered, and it has declined quite a bit," Ferebee said.

In the past, those living near energy plants storing coal ash like Cane Run and Mill Creek, have reported dusty homes and declining health. But there isn't much research on the health of those living near storage sites.

"We are looking whether coal ash is inside people homes and also the metals that are in coal ash," Zierold said.

For the study, two small machines are left in a home for one week. The machines track coal ash and metals like arsenic, lead and barium.

Nail samples are collected from children to check for those metals found inside the body.

"It worked out perfectly for our study, because there are two coal ash storage facilities in Louisville," Zierold said.

Zierold and her team are focusing on neurological development like fine motor skills and disorders like anxiety.

A pilot study of 26 adults showed 38% of those living near coal ash plants had ADHD. The national average is four-to-six percent.

The Ferebees should be getting their results soon. The study will cure their curiosity, but could also change their lives drastically.

"I am worried," Ferebee said. "I am a little worried, I am worried for all of our sake that would mean we would have to move."

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Once Zierold completes the study in 2020, they will share their overall findings with the community.

Zierold needs 200 more participants. There are financial incentives to be a part of the study. Click here  for more information or call or text 502-216-9673 to sign your child up.

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