Health Impacts of Coal-Derived Organic Substances in Drinking Water Supplies
We are investigating the leaching of coal-derived organic substances into drinking water supplies, and links to human disease. One disease model of coal-derived and potentially harmful organic substances in drinking water supplies being studied is Balkan endemic nephropathy (BEN). BEN is a kidney disease restricted to clusters of rural (endemic) villages in the Balkans. The geographic distribution of endemic villages is closely correlated with the occurrence of low rank coal (Pliocene lignite). We hypothesize that groundwater leaches toxic organic compounds from lignite located in hills above endemic villages, and transports these compounds to wells/springs in the villages. Chronic exposure to toxic organic compounds (e.g. heterocyclics and aromatic amines) in the drinking water for 20+ years may be a factor leading to BEN and renal/pelvic cancers (RPC) associated with BEN. Field studies have shown that groundwater from endemic villages exhibited higher concentrations and numbers of organic compounds compared to control sites. Toxicological studies showed that organics in water from endemic villages produced excessive cell proliferation in human kidney cells at low dose, and cell death at higher dose. High rates of RPC are also found in U.S. states that have low rank coal deposits and rural populations using groundwater (e.g. WY, LA, ND, SD). Preliminary results on coal-derived organics in groundwater and links to BEN and RPC in the USA will also be discussed.