The findings, presented at recent academic conferences and in the peer-reviewed publication pipeline, add to the results of nearly two dozen West Virginia University papers that found higher levels of health problems -- including cancer and birth defects -- among residents living in the shadow of large-scale surface coal mining." The studies showed only correlations, not causations, so further research was needed.
"It moves beyond the epidemiological data to examine what the real environmental conditions are in the communities where people live near mountaintop removal operations," said WVU researcher Michael Hendryx, who co-authored the previous papers and the new reports. Ward notes that environmental groups have not funded Hendryx, "but those groups have seized on his findings to argue that mountaintop removal isn't just an issue about mining's effects on salamanders, mayflies or isolated mountain streams. Coal lobbyists have disputed the study findings and industry lawyers have so far kept the science out of courtroom battles over new mining permits." (For more reporter's notes and commentary on this item, see Ward's blog, Coal Tattoo, go here.
Manuel Quinones of Energy & Environment News writes about the debate between Hendryx and Jonathan Borak, a clinical professor of epidemiology and public health and medicine at Yale University, who rebutted Hendryx's mortality study with an article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Expanding research paid for by the National Mining Association, he said Hendryx put too much weight on coal when other factors could be to blame. "This month, Hendryx and co-author Melissa Ahern, an associate professor in Washington State University's College of Pharmacotherapy, published a letter to the editor in the journal responding to Borak," Quinones reports. "Borak also penned a response to the response. . . . Amid the disagreements, a collection of several university scholars, including some from West Virginia University, have joined forces to increase scientific understanding of the coal industry and its effects. Even though the consortium receives industry funding, companies have no say in the research." (Read more; subscription may be required)