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

Diplomats Work to Extend Arab-Israeli Cease-Fire

Top officials from the US, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Qatar gather in Paris, while Israel security forces continue searching for tunnels used by militants and Gazan rescue workers search for bodies More

Photogallery US Defense Department Warns of Arms to Eastern Ukraine

‘Imminent’ delivery of Russian rocket launcher poses threat to civilians, US says More

Video Researchers: Africa Genetically Modified Crops Held Back by Scaremongering

GM crops offer best hope of increasing productivity and coping with climate change in Africa, according to co-author of Chatham House report 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid