Alaska Collaborative on Health and the Environment

The Toll of Alaska’s Coal: Health Impacts of Coal Export.

This podcast was recorded Wednesday, January 23, 2013.

About the call:

This call was presented by Alaska Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE-AK). Alaska possesses roughly half the nation’s coal – or nearly 1/8th of world reserves.  As a result, there is growing interest in developing Alaska’s coal resources for export to Asia.  But at every stage – from mining, transportation, combustion, and disposal – coal development threatens human health, air quality, and water quality. There are four proposed strip mines in Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley and another at Chuitna. Presenters will discuss the adverse health effects of inhaling diesel particulate matter and coal dust – a significant risk for those communities along truck and train transportation routes – and how toxic emissions (which include mercury and other heavy metals) from coal-fired power plants in Asia travel back to Alaska, polluting our air, water, and fish.


Heidi ZimmerHeidi Zimmer, Environmental Health and Justice Coordinator, Alaska Community Action on Toxics. Heidi holds a master’s in environmental science from Western Washington University and a bachelor’s in Biology and English. Prior to joing ACAT, Heidi worked as an environmental scientist for a private firm conducting environmental site assessments and for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as a habitat biologist conducting hydrological assessments of culverts to evaluate potential fish passage, including field survey work, data analysis, modeling, and report writing. (Heidi Zimmer’s presentation: Appalachia of the North? A Brief Overview of Coal in Alaska)


Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABTSteven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT is Director and Founder of the Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders (INND), and an Affiliate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington. His research has focused on neurobehavioral effects of low-level exposure to lead and mercury on the developing nervous system.  His book, A Small Dose of Toxicology- The Health Effects of Common Chemicals was published in 2004 and the 2nd edition is available for free as an E-book. He recently started the wiki based web site Toxipedia which includes a suite of sites that put scientific information in the context of history, society, and culture. (Steven Gilbert’s presentation: The Toll of Coal – Health Impacts of Coal Export)

Regna MerrittRegna Merritt, Campaign Director: Prevent Coal Exports, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. Regna works with health professionals and the Power Past Coal Coalition to identify and prevent negative health impacts of proposed coal export projects in the Pacific Northwest.  A retired physician assistant and former executive director of Oregon Wild, Regna has worked for over 20 years to protect municipal drinking water. She was instrumental in efforts to secure federal legislation which protects the Bull Run, source of the largest municipal water supply in Oregon. Ms. Merritt graduated from US Public Health Service’s Physician Assistant Training Program and received her BS from SUNY. (Regna Merritt’s presentation: Health Impacts of Climate Change)


Heidi Zimmer’s presentation: Appalachia of the North? A Brief Overview of Coal in Alaska

Steven Gilbert’s presentation: The Toll of Coal – Health Impacts of Coal Export

Regna Merritt’s presentation: Health Impacts of Climate Change


Related Actions:

Request Comprehensive Health Impact Assessments:

What do mercury-contaminated fish and the Alaska Mental Health Trust have in common? Alaskan coal!

The Alaska Mental Health Trust is a state corporation with a mandate to manage its resources, including land, to fund mental health assistance and treatment programs. Unfortunately, The Trust has chosen an extremely unhealthy industry to generate revenue—coal mining and export. The Trust has sold at least part of four major coal leases from Chickaloon to Chuitna to mining companies with plans to strip mine through mountains and salmon streams—all for export to coal-burning power plants and smelters in Asia. Coal burned overseas generates a toxic cloud of emissions, including mercury, that travels back across the North Pacific and contaminates our land, water, and fish with mercury and other toxic substances.

Are you a doctor? nurse? medical staff?

It is time for YOU to take action!

Please use the form below to send your comments to the Mental Health Trust Board of Trustees.

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