Fly ash is commonly deposited in special landfills as it contains toxic concentrations of heavy metals, such as Zn, Pb, Cd, and Cu. This study was inspired by our efforts to detoxify fly ash from municipal solid waste incineration by thermal treatment to produce secondary raw materials suited for reprocessing. The potential of the thermal treatment was studied by monitoring the evaporation rate of zinc from a certified fly ash (BCR176) during heating between 300 and 950 degreesC under different carrier gas compositions. Samples were quenched at different temperatures for subsequent investigation with X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS). The XAS spectra were analyzed using principal component analysis (PCA), target transformation (TT), and linear combination fitting (LCF) to analyze the major Zn compounds in the fly ash as a function of the temperature. The original fly ash comprised about 60% zinc oxides mainly in the form of hydrozincite (Zn-5(OH)(6)(CO3)(2)) and 40% inerts like willemite (Zn2SiO4) and gahnite (ZnAl2O4) in a weight ratio of about 3:1. At intermediate temperatures (550750 degreesC) the speciation underlines the competition between indigenous S and Cl with solid zinc oxides to form either volatile ZnCl2 or solid ZnS. ZnS then transformed into volatile species at about 200 degreesC higher temperatures. The inhibiting influence of S was found absent when oxygen was introduced to the inert carrier gas stream or chloride-donating alkali salt was added to the fly ash.