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China to monitor endemic arsenic, fluoride poisoning
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China will start to monitor the endemic poisoning of coal-burning arsenic and fluoride as environmentally-related illnesses which continue to plague coal-rich central and western regions, the Ministry of Health said Monday.

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 Monday 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 ranges 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. It also contaminates what is being cooked on the stove.

According to a statement, every year a total of 31 counties and cities in Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Chongqing, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan and Shaanxi 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.

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$58.5) in compensation.

The new stoves pipe the smoke out of the room.

(Xinhua News Agency August 11, 2009)

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