Environmental Science & Technology
Power plant fly ash from two fuels, coal and a mixture of coal and shredded tires, were evaluated for trace metal solubility in simulated human lung and gut fluids (SLF and SGF, respectively) to estimate bioaccessibility. The proportion of bioaccessible to total metal ranged from zero (V) to 80% (Zn) for coal-derived ash in SLF and from 2 (Th) to 100% (Cu) for tire-derived fly ash in SGF. The tire-derived ash contained much more Zn. However, Zn ranked only 5th of the various toxic metals in SGF compared with international regulations for ingestion. On the basis of total concentrations, the metals closest to exceeding limits based on international regulations for inhalation were Cr, Pb, and Al. On dissolution in SLF, the most limiting metals were Pb, Cu, and Zn. For metals exposed to SGF there was no relative change in the top metal, Al, before and after dissolution but the second-ranked metal shifted from Pb to Ni. In most cases only a proportion of the total metal concentrations in either fly ash was soluble, and hence bioaccessible, in either biofluid. When considering the regulatory limits for inhalation of particulates, none of the metal concentrations measured were as hazardous as the fly ash particulates themselves. However, on the basis of the international ingestion regulations for Al, the maximum mass of fly ash that could be ingested is only 1 mg per day (10 mg based on bioaccessibility). It is possible that such a small mass could be consumed by exposed individuals or groups.
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