A report to Congress on coal’s future as a U.S. energy source draws on the expertise of UT Dallas Professor Robert Finkelman, an authority on the effects of coal production and use. Dr. Finkelman, a professor in the Geosciences Department of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, has devoted his career to understanding coal’s properties, economic byproducts, and environmental and health impacts. He specializes in the field of Medical Geology, which seeks to understand the impacts of geologic materials and processes on animal and human health.Dr. Finkelman’s help was sought after Congress asked the National Research Council to organize a committee to study coal-related research and development. Dr. Finkelman was a member of the committee and a co-author of the recently published NRC report Coal: Research and Development to Support National Energy Policy.
A cancer epidemic under way in southeast China may have been initiated by a string of Siberian volcanoes that spewed ash across the Earth 250 million years ago, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Nonsmoking women in the Xuan Wei County, Yunnan Province, China suffer from the world’s highest known rate of lung cancer, and Geosciences Research Professor Robert Finkelman, one of the study’s co-authors, said researchers believe the answer is in the coal that women in the province use for heating and cooking. “Peak lung cancer mortality in women in one specific area of China—Xuan Wei—has been reported at 400 deaths per 100,000 people, which is nearly 20 times the mortality levels in the rest of China,” Finkelman said. The extraordinarily high rate of lung cancer and the constant use of coal by women for heating and cooking led geoscientists to study the native coal from area mines.