Chronic Arsenic Poisoning From Burning High‐Arsenic‐Containing Coal In Guizhou, China
Arsenic is an environmental hazard and the reduction of drinking water arsenic levels is under consideration. People are exposed to arsenic not only through drinking water but also through arsenic‐contaminated air and food. Here we report the health effects of arsenic exposure from burning high arsenic‐containing coal in Guizhou, China. Coal in this region has undergone mineralization and thus produces high concentrations of arsenic. Coal is burned inside the home in open pits for daily cooking and crop drying, producing a high concentration of arsenic in indoor air. Arsenic in the air coats and permeates food being dried producing high concentrations in food; however, arsenic concentrations in the drinking water are in the normal range. The estimated sources of total arsenic exposure in this area are from arsenic‐contaminated food (50‐80%), air (10‐20%), water (1‐5%), and direct contact in coal‐mining workers (1%). At least 3,000 patients with arsenic poisoning were found in the Southwest Prefecture of Guizhou, and approximately 200,000 people are at risk for such overexposures. Skin lesions are common, including keratosis of the hands and feet, pigmentation on the trunk, skin ulceration, and skin cancers. Toxicities to internal organs, including lung dysfunction, neuropathy, and nephrotoxicity, are clinically evident. The prevalence of hepatomegaly was 20%, and cirrhosis, ascites, and liver cancer are the most serious outcomes of arsenic poisoning. The Chinese government and international organizations are attempting to improve the house conditions and the coal source, and thereby protect human health in this area.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 2002