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The combustion of solid fuels (like wood, animal dung, and coal) usually involves elevated temperatures and altered pressures and genotoxicants (e.g., PAHs) are likely to form. These substances are carcinogenic in experimental animals, and epidemiological studies implicate these fuels (especially their emissions) as carcinogens in man. Globally, ∼50% of all households and ∼90% of all rural households use solid fuels for cooking or heating and these fuels often are burnt in simple stoves with very incomplete combustion. Exposed women and children often exhibit low birth weight, increased infant and perinatal mortality, head and neck cancer, and lung cancer although few studies have measured exposure directly. Today, households that cannot meet the expense of fuels like kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, and electricity resort to collecting wood, agricultural residue, and animal dung to use as household fuels. In the more developed countries, solid fuels are often used for electric power generation providing more than half of the electricity generated in the United States. The world's coal reserves, which equal approximately one exagram, equal ∼1 trillion barrels of crude oil (comparable to all the world's known oil reserves) and could last for 600 years. Studies show that the PAHs that are identified in solid fuel emissions react with NO2 to form direct-acting mutagens. In summary, many of the measured genotoxicants found in both the indoor and electricity-generating combustors are the same; therefore, the severity of the health effects vary with exposure and with the health status of the exposed population.
Claxton, L. D. (2014) The history, genotoxicity, and carcinogenicity of carbon-based fuels and their emissions. Part 2: Solid fuels, Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research (In Press).