News / Asia

Coal Burning Linked to Fluoride Disease in China

Bones, teeth affected in unventilated homes

Multimedia

Audio
Art Chimes

Fluoride disease is blamed for an outbreak in China that blackened teeth, caused very brittle bones and bone deformation.
Fluoride disease is blamed for an outbreak in China that blackened teeth, caused very brittle bones and bone deformation.

A cluster of villages in China's Guizhou province has been plagued by an outbreak of disease that damages teeth and bones. Now, a new study by Chinese and American researchers puts the blame on polluted coal burned in home fireplaces.

In small quantities, fluoride can prevent tooth decay. But too much fluoride can lead to a whole spectrum of symptoms, and that's what Chinese doctors were seeing, explains chemistry professor Joseph Gardella at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

"It runs from everything as simple as blackened teeth to these very brittle bones, bone deformation, so that leads to very debilitating disability," he said in a telephone interview. "And the rates of skeletal fluorosis in some of the villages are as high as 30 percent, although not all of those people who suffer are suffering the most extreme disability."

The most common source of fluoride disease is water pollution. But tests found no problem with the villages' water, so scientists started looking for another environmental source of fluoride.

Coal, which is burned for heating and cooking, was another suspect, but the coal itself wasn't polluted. However, advanced imaging techniques revealed that the culprit was another material burned with the coal.

"These are villagers that will collect what coal is available. And it turns out that they form briquettes, coal briquettes to burn, by mixing it with surface clay. And what we've learned is that the fluorine, as fluoride, is associated with this clay component," Gardella said.

The scientist says it's unclear exactly how the village residents were being poisoned by the fluoride. They might be breathing in the chemical, which is an ion of the element fluorine. Or it might be in tiny particles that settle on food.

"We were able to obtain dried peppers and dried corn samples from the villages and show that the particulate matter on the surfaces of these chili peppers was really high in fluorine content."

Either way, says University at Buffalo scientist Joseph Gardella, the Chinese government has launched a program to install chimneys to vent the harmful fluoride out of villagers' homes.

Results of the research were presented in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the International Symposium of the AVS, the scientific group formerly known as the American Vacuum Society.  

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs