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The types of data needed for assessing the environmental and human health impacts of coal

December 31, 1998

Coal is one of the most important sources of energy. Its worldwide use will continue to expand during the next several decades, particularly in rapidly developing countries such as China and India. Unfortunately, coal use may bring with it environmental and human health costs. Many of the environmental and health problems attributed to coal combustion are due to mobilization of potentially toxic elements. Some of these problems could be minimized or even avoided if comprehensive databases containing appropriate coal quality information were available to decision makers so that informed decisions could be made regarding coal use. Among the coal quality parameters that should be included in these databases are: C, H, N, O, pyritic sulfur, organic sulfur, major, minor, and trace element concentrations, modes of occurrence of environmentally sensitive elements, cleanability, mineralogy, organic chemistry, petrography, and leachability.Coal is one of the most important sources of energy. Its worldwide use will continue to expand during the next several decades, particularly in rapidly developing countries such as China and India. Unfortunately, coal use may bring with it environmental and human health costs. Many of the environmental and health problems attributed to coal combustion are due to mobilization of potentially toxic elements. Some of these problems could be minimized or even avoided if comprehensive databases containing appropriate coal quality information were available to decision makers so that informed decisions could be made regarding coal use. Among the coal quality parameters that should be included in these databases are: C, H, N, O, pyritic sulfur, organic sulfur, major, minor, and trace element concentrations, modes of occurrence of environmentally sensitive elements, cleanability, mineralogy, organic chemistry, petrography, and leachability.