Toxic Winds: Coal Ash in Sandstorms

Sandstorms, which afflict China every spring, are more than simply dust. These storms travel through China's key coal-mining and thermal-power plant region, picking up coal ash, raw coal dust, flue gas and other pollutants on their way to eastern and southern China. Because many power plants do not dispose of coal ash properly, the strong winds in a sandstorm can easily transport ash particles over 150,000 kilometers. In this way, sandstorms greatly magnify the reach of coal pollution, bringing pollutants such as PAHs (carcinogens), arsenic, mercury and lead far beyond the coal regions to impact the health and environment of great expanses of China.