Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM
INVITED KEYNOTE: COAL IN CHINA: UNLIMITED OPPORTUNITIES FOR MEDICAL GEOLOGISTS
China is the world’s oldest and largest producer and user of coal. Coal mining and coal use has left a long legacy of health problems that still persist. Until recently, burning locally collected coal for residential use had resulted in millions of villagers suffering from dental and skeletal fluorosis, thousands suffering from arseniasis, hundreds suffering from selenosis, and probably dozens affected by mercury emissions. Although in recent years many of these problems have been mitigated by switching to commercial coals and briquettes and through education, no attempts have been made to assess the more subtle, sub-clinical manifestations of these long-term exposures. Similarly, it has been postulated that residential combustion of coals containing extraordinarily high contents of fine-grained quartz particles has caused an exceptionally high incidence of lung cancer in Yunnan Province. No attempts have been made to determine the extent of non-cancer respiratory problems caused by these coals or if similar, but more subtle, situations exist elsewhere in China. Almost half a million Chinese coal miners suffer from Black Lung disease and untold numbers suffer from exposure to silica dust. Medical geologists may be able to recognize the situations in which the miners are at greatest risk thus leading to mitigation measures. Uncontrolled coal fires mobilize toxic elements and toxic organic compounds that impact the coal miners and nearby villagers. Medical geologists can help to assess which fires presents the greatest health risk. Medical geologists can also help to determine if drinking water in communication with China’s low-rank coal aquifers presents a health threat as it does in Europe and the U.S. Other issues that medical geologists can address include the use of trace element-rich coal alternatives such as stone coal and oil shale, long-term, low-level exposure to particulates, organic compounds, acid gases, etc. mobilized by coal mining, transportation, combustion, and coal byproduct use and disposal.
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