Children with deformed limbs, hands and feet covered with scaly lesions, cancerous growths--these distressing sights are all too common in Guizhou Province in southwest China. Although these health problems have been attributed to the burning of impure coal, they are in reality the consequence of the complex interactions of geology, climate, energy needs, food preferences, and cultural practices.
"Worldwide, nearly one billion people use coal in unvented ovens for heat and cooking," said Dr. Robert Finkelman of the U.S. Geological Survey. "Many developing countries rely heavily on coal as a source of energy; however, much of the coal is burned in homes without proper ventilation and with no regard for the quality of the coal. As a result, many millions of people suffer from various health problems," Finkelman explained.
The USGS, in cooperation with state geological surveys, has been collecting coal quality data for the U.S. for more than 20 years to create a comprehensive national coal information database. This database has developed into the largest publicly available database of its kind. Data are available on the Internet at http://energy.er.usgs.gov/products/databases/CoalQual/index.htm. Most developing countries, such as China, are only now recognizing the need to generate reliable coal-quality information to protect the health of their citizens and the quality of the global atmosphere.
The USGS, in partnership with U.S. and Chinese health officials, is working to help address health problems associated with domestic coal combustion in China. USGS researchers are involved in the following areas:
Esophageal cancer, known as "the disease of hard swallowing," is the fourth
leading cause of cancer death in China. In the United States, esophageal cancer
is the eighth leading cause of cancer death in men. Henan province,
north-central China, has some of the h
Contact: Diane Noserale
United States Geological Survey