Arsenic, Coal, and Chili Peppers?: Throughout the world, nearly one billion people burn coal for heating and cooking in unvented ovens. As a consequence, millions of these people suffer serious health problems. In China's Guizhou Province alone, health officials have identified more than 3000 cases of arsenic poisoning, attributed primarily to the practice of drying chili peppers used in Sichuan cooking, over stoves burning coals with extreme concentrations of arsenic. Working with officials in China and scientists in the U.S., USGS has adapted an arsenic-in-water field-test kit to analyze arsenic in coal. Fluorine poisoning also affects millions of people in China. USGS scientists have helped Chinese health officials to trace this health crisis to drying corn over fluorine-enriched coal. Recognizing the etiology of these diseases has helped public health officials to determine how to mitigate this hazard.
Sentinels of Emerging Disease: Because wild birds often are the first indicator that West Nile Virus is present in an area, state and local health departments depend upon the testing of dead birds for West Nile Virus surveillance. With expertise in wildlife heal
Contact: Carolyn Bell
United States Geological Survey