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Understanding the chemical properties of macerals and minerals in coal and its potential application for occupational lung disease prevention.

Huang X; Finkelman RB
J Toxicol Environ Health, B 2008 Jan; 11(1):45-67
Recent increases in oil price further strengthen the argument that coal and coal products will play an increasingly important role in fulfilling the energy needs of our society. Coal is an aggregate of heterogeneous substances composed of organic (macerals) and inorganic (minerals) materials. The objective of this review was to assess whether some chemical parameters in coal play a role in producing environmental health problems. Basic properties of coal--such as chemical forms of the organic materials, structure, compositions of minerals--vary from one coal mine region to another as well as from coals of different ranks. Most importantly, changes in chemical properties of coals due to exposure to air and humidity after mining--a dynamic process--significantly affect toxicity attributed to coal and environmental fate. Although coal is an extremely complex and heterogeneous material, the fundamental properties of coal responsible for environmental and adverse health problems are probably related to the same inducing components of coal. For instance, oxidation of pyrite (FeS2) in the coal forms iron sulfate and sulfuric acid, which produces occupational lung diseases (e.g., pneumoconiosis) and other environmental problems (e.g., acid mine drainage and acid rain). Calcite (CaCO3) contained in certain coals alters the end products of pyrite oxidation, which may make these coals less toxic to human inhalation and less hazardous to environmental pollution. Finally, knowledge gained on understanding of the chemical properties of coals is illustrated to apply for prediction of toxicity due to coal possibly before large-scale mining and prevention of occupational lung disease during mining.
Coal-workers; Coal-mining; Coal-miners; Lung-disease; Diseases; Coal-dust; Laboratory-animals; Animals; Animal-studies; Iron-compounds; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Respiratory-system-disorders; Occupational-diseases; Occupational-exposure; Pneumoconiosis; Chemical-composition; Chemical-indicators; Chemical-properties; Chemical-synthesis
Xi Huang, PhD, Department of Environmental Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, 550 First Avenue, PHL Room 802, New York, NY 10016
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Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B: Critical Reviews
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New York University Medical Center, New York, New York
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division