Elemental characterization of coal ash and its leachates using sequential extraction techniques

S. Landsberger, J. F. Cerbus, Susan M Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over 50 million tons of coal ash are produced annually in North America. Technological improvements in air pollution control have decreased stack emissions but have also increased contaminant concentrations in the ash of coal-fired boiler applications. The leaching of heavy metals and other elements during regulatory tests may cause coal ash ro be classified as hazardous waste, complicating land disposal. The hazardous nature of coal ash remains unclear because current toxicity tests fail to effectively characterize the elemental distribution and chemical solubility of trace metals in the landfill environment. Leaching characteristics of ash samples can be investigated with various laboratory extraction procedures in association with multi-elemental analytical techniques (e.g., neutron activation analysis and inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy). Such methods provide more thorough analyses of coal ash leaching dynamics than the regulatory assessments can demonstrate. Regulatory elements including Ag, As, Ba, Cd, Cr, Hg, Pb, and Se were shown to remain in largely insoluble forms while elements such as B and S leached at higher levels. Experimental results may assist operators of coal-fired boiler industries in selecting coal types and disposal options to curtail the leaching of potentially toxic inorganic contaminants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-274
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry Articles
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Pollution
  • Spectroscopy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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