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August 11, 2009

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Coal areas monitored in wake of illness

CHINA would start to monitor the endemic poisoning of coal-burning arsenic and fluorine as environmentally related illnesses continue to plague coal-rich central and western regions, the Health Ministry said yesterday.

Information to be monitored includes the management of arsenic and fluorine-rich coal mines, the progress of old furnace replacements and local people's environmentally related illnesses, according to a statement released on the ministry's Website.

Fluorosis often results in yellow teeth, twisted spines, aching joints and deformed leg bones while long-term consumption of arsenic can lead to skin cancer and even death.

The coal-burning poisoning results mainly from cooking as many rural households use arsenic and fluorine-rich coal as their major cooking fuel.

Since most clay stoves in central and western regions don't have chimneys, there's no way for the poisonous contents to vent. It's concentrated in the smoke from cooking, so people breathe it.

According to a statement, every year a total of 31 counties and cities in Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan and Shaanxi provinces and Chongqing Municipality will be randomly selected for the monitoring between September and next February.

The monitoring will be carried out by disease control and prevention centers at county level and the results will be reported through the ministry to the State Council, or Cabinet.

China has been fighting the illnesses mainly by replacing traditional stoves and promoting people's awareness.

In June, the Health Ministry launched a project to curb fluorosis in six provinces, including Yunnan and Guizhou. This year, it will upgrade the stoves of 870,000 households, with each getting 400 yuan (US$58.50) in compensation.


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