Selenium excess and deficiency have been established as the cause of various health problems in man and animals. Combustion of fossil fuels, especially coal, may be a major source of the anthropogenic introduction of selenium in the environment. Coal is enriched in selenium relative to selenium's concentration in most other rocks and relative to selenium in the Earth's crust. Data from almost 9,000 coal samples have been used to determine the concentration and distribution of selenium in US coals. The geometric mean concentration of selenium in US coal is 1.7 ppm. The highest mean selenium value (geometric mean 4.7 ppm) is in the Texas Region. Atlantic Coast (Virginia and North Carolina) and Alaska coals have the lowest geometric means (0.2 and 0.42 ppm, respectively). All western coal regions have mean selenium concentrations of less than 2.0 ppm. In contrast, all coal basins east of the Rocky Mountains (except for several small basins in Rhode Island, Virginia, and North Carolina) have mean selenium values of 1.9 or greater. Generally, variations in selenium concentration do not correlate with variations in ash yield, pyritic sulphur, or organic sulphur concentrations. This may be the result of multiple sources of selenium; however, in some non-marine basins with restricted sources of selenium, selenium has positive correlations with other coal quality parameters. Selenium occurs in several forms in coal but appears to be chiefly associated with the organic fraction, probably substituting for organic sulphur. Other important forms of selenium in coal are selenium-bearing pyrite, selenium-bearing galena, and lead selenide (clausthalite). Water-soluble and ion-exchangeable selenium also have been reported. ?? 1993 Copyright Science and Technology Letters.
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Distribution and mode of occurrence of selenium in US coals