Health effects of indoor fluoride pollution from coal burning in China

Environ Health Perspect. 1998 May;106(5):239-44. doi: 10.1289/ehp.98106239.


The combustion of high fluoride-content coal as an energy resource for heating, cooking, and food drying is a major exhaust emission source of suspended particulate matter and fluoride. High concentrations of these pollutants have been observed in indoor air of coal-burning families in some rural areas in China. Because airborne fluoride has serious toxicological properties, fluoride pollution in indoor air and the prevalence of fluorosis have been analyzed in a fluorosis area and a healthy nonfluorosis area in China and in a rural area in Japan. For human health, fluoride in indoor air has not only been directly inhaled by residents but also has been absorbed in stored food such as corn, chilies, and potatoes. In the fluorosis area in China, concentrations of urinary fluoride in the residents have been much higher than in the nonfluorosis area in China and in the rural area in Japan. In the fluorosis area, almost all elementary and junior high school students 10-15 years of age had dental fluorosis. Osteosclerosis in the skeletal fluorosis patients was very serious. Urinary deoxypyridinoline in rural residents in China was much higher than in rural residents in Japan. Data suggest that bone resorption was extremely stimulated in the residents in China and that fluoride may stimulate both bone resorption and bone formation. Because indoor fluoride from combustion of coal is easily absorbed in stored food and because food consumption is a main source of fluoride exposure, it is necessary to reduce airborne fluoride and food contamination to prevent serious fluorosis in China.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Air Pollution, Indoor*
  • Bone Resorption / chemically induced
  • Bone Resorption / epidemiology
  • Child
  • China
  • Coal / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fluorides / adverse effects*
  • Fluorosis, Dental / epidemiology
  • Food Contamination
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osteosclerosis / chemically induced
  • Prevalence


  • Coal
  • Fluorides