An Omaha newspaper reported last week that concrete city streets in Lincoln were deteriorating due to the use of fly ash in the mix. What they call “concrete cancer” is clearly alkali-silica reaction as a result of the highly reactive Nebraska aggregate—here’s a link to the story. So when the writer declares that the deterioration is due to the use of fly ash, those of us in the concrete industry know that he or she doesn’t understand what causes ASR and what fly ash does in concrete.
Trolling the internet for interesting stories related to concrete is a big part of what I do these days and I frequently come across articles that misrepresent concrete in one way or another. Often it’s the claim that cement manufacturing is a huge carbon polluter, some claim as high as 10% of worldwide CO2 emissions. I could go to these news sites and argue with the writers about life-cycle and cement manufacturing, but who has the time? If I see something particularly egregious, I do respond, but most of the time going on the attack just seems useless. Like about a lot of things these days, it seems people only hear what they want to hear. Any argument that doesn’t agree with what they already believe must be “fake news.”
Just as often, the fake news about concrete is simply due to ignorance. We’re all ignorant about something—if I start writing about 19th century Russian literature, don’t listen! But too often journalists in regular newspapers write about concrete as if they understand it, which they seldom do. And when people write about or talk about something they don’t really understand, they are bound to make mistakes. Reporting about facts is one thing, but leaping to conclusions about something you don’t really understand is just plain stupid.