Coke Oven Emissions

Coking plant

Emissions from coking plants typically include carcinogens such as cadmium and arsenic.

What are coke oven emissions?

Coke oven emissions come from large ovens that are used to heat coal to produce coke, which is used to manufacture iron and steel. The emissions are complex mixtures of dust, vapors, and gases that typically include carcinogens such as cadmium and arsenic. Chemicals recovered from coke oven emissions are used as raw materials for producing items such as plastics, solvents, dyes, paints, and insulation.

How are people exposed to coke oven emissions?

Workers at coking plants and coal-tar production plants may be exposed to coke oven emissions. Occupational exposures can also occur among workers in the aluminum, steel, graphite, electrical, and construction industries. The primary routes of potential human exposure to coke oven emissions are inhalation and absorption through the skin.

Which cancers are associated with exposure to coke oven emissions?

Exposure to coke oven emissions increases the risk of lung cancer and, possibly, kidney cancer.  

How can exposures be reduced?

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration provides information about exposure limits for coke oven emissions.

Selected References:

  • Health Effects Notebook for Hazardous Air Pollutants. Coke Oven Emissions Fact Sheet. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013. Available online. Last accessed February 1, 2019.
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer. Coke Production, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Volume 100F. Lyon, France: World Health Organization, 2012. Available online. Last accessed February 1, 2019.
  • National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Coke Oven Emissions, NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010. Available online. Last accessed February 1, 2019.
  • National Toxicology Program. Coke-Oven Emissions, Report on Carcinogens, Fourteenth Edition. Triangle Park, NC: National Institute of Environmental Health and Safety, 2016. Available online. Last accessed February 1, 2019.
  • Updated: February 1, 2019

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