The Hazards of Coal and Coal Mining to Human Health
A Discussion Paper
In partial fulfilment of the requirements in PH175 -Environmental Health for Summer of S.Y. 2011-2012
Kaycee Rhee C. Pormilos
Mitzi Kate S. Bagsit
BS Public Health III
University of the Philippines Visayas
May 18, 2012
2 The Hazards of Coal and Coal Mining to Human Health
The Hazards of Coal a nd Coal Mining to Human Health
Coal is a solid but brittle sedimentary rock with a natural brown to black color and is made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and lesser amounts o f sulphur and trace elements. Coal is classified into four types depending on the carbo n, oxygen and hydrogen content on which the higher the carbon content, the more energy the coal contains (Coal at a Glance, 2009). The amount of energy in coal is define d by the heat value measured by British thermal units (Btu). One Btu is equivalent to the amount of energy in a single match (RockTalk, 2005). The four types of coal include lignite, sub bituminous, bituminous, and anthracite. The lowest rank of the coal i s lignite and has a heating value of 4,000 to 8,300 British thermal units (Btu) per pound. This type is the softest with high moisture content, least amount of carbon a nd is mainly used to produce electricity. The second least of the four types is sub-bituminous coal with a heating value of 8,300 to 13,000 Btu per pound and contains 35 to 45 percent carbon. After addition of more heat and pressure on lignite, bituminous coal is formed which is made of many tiny layers. It contains 11,000 to 15,500 Btu per p ound heating value and is an important fuel for the steel and iron industries. Of the commonly minable coals, anthracite is the hardest and has a heating value of 15,000 Btu per p ound containing 86 to 97 percent carbon (Coal at a Glance, 2009).
Coal is a non-renewable source of energy because it takes million of years to form. It has become a powerhouse by the 1800’s in America in which the people used coal to manufacture goods and to power steamships and railroad engines . It was noted that after the American Civil war, coal was used to make iron and steel and by the end of 1800’s, people used coal to make electricity. In the 1900’s, coal is the mainstay for the nation’s business and industries. Coal stayed America’s number one energy source until petroleum was used for petroleum products that became a demand. In 2009, 93.6 percent of all the coal in the United States was used for electricity production. Coal generates almost half of the electricity used in the U.S (Coal at a Glance, 2009). Based from Gree n World Investor (2011), coal has numerous uses primarily as a source of fuel and as a rich carbon source. It also plays an important role in cement and steel industries and coal is the largest source of electricity production. Coal is mainly used as fuel to generate electricity t hrough combustion. In steel production, coal together with iron, are the two raw materials used to produce steel in which the former is used as a fuel to smelt the iron in furnace until the cast iron is further refined. Similar with electricity and cement production, coal is also being used as a fuel in cement industry. Furthermore, paper a nd aluminum industry also uses coal as a fuel since coal
3 The Hazards of Coal and Coal Mining to Human Health
is cheap and very available for these types of industries that are huge consumers of energy fuel.
According to World Coal Association (2012), “the biggest market for coal is Asia, which currently accounts for over 65% of global coal consumption; although China is responsible for a significant proportion of this. Many countries do not have n atural energy resources sufficient to cover their energy needs, and therefore need to import energy to help meet their requirements. Japan, Chinese Taipei and Korea, for example, import significant quantities of steam...