According to reports from a Southwestern Pennsylvania prison, a high rate of cancer among inmates has been linked to a nearby coal ash dump.
State Correctional Institution Fayette has a higher inmate death rate than all but two other prisions in the state, both of which have high geriatric population.
1,986 inmates are housed at the SCI Fayette along with a staff of 677.
According to a report released by the Abolitionist Law Center, a public interest law firm based in Pittsburg, and the Human Right Coalition, a nation prison reform group, from 2010-2013 eleven prisoners died of cancer and six have been diagnosed with the terminal illness.
A 12-month investigation found that blowing coal ash was most likely the cause of the inmate cancers as well as other illness at the facility
According to the report, inmates described black dust blowing from the dump and settling onto the prison and its grounds
What Is Coal Ash?
Coal ash, also known as “fly ash”, is the residue of burning coal in a power plant, and is the second-largest industrial waste stream in the U.S after mining wastes.
It contains some of earth’s deadliest toxins such as:
The carcinogenic compounds including lead, arsenic and mercury were revealed in a 2010 report by a public interest group, Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Toxic metals in coal ash can leach out of ash disposal sites a cause cancer and neurological harm in humans.
With prolonged exposure these toxins can cause a number of health problems including cancer, heart damage, lung disease, respiratory distress, and kidney damage among others.
According to Bret Grote, author of the prison report, there has been a strong correlation between confinement at SCI Fayette and the onset of serious health symptoms.
Fly ash from two regional power plants was dumped at the Fayette County site for 60 years said John Poister, a spokesman for the state department of Environmental Protection.
Spokespersons from the prison stated that they have been reviewing the report and take the health of their inmates very seriously.