He told Quiñones he found few studies about coal mining affecting public health, so he decided to do the research himself. When he ran the data for his first study and it showed a correlation between mountaintop removal and poor health, "I said 'Oh, my God!' I was surprised, frankly." Further studies have linked the mines to "increased cancer rates, higher mortality rates and birth defects," Quiñones writes. "He has questioned the economic value of coal mining in West Virginia and has joined other scientists in calling for a moratorium on mountaintop-removal mining." The studies show correlations, not causations, but Hendryx said he feels like he's made significant contributions to the linkage between coal mining and health effects: "I think coal mining in West Virginia is the single most important public health problem that we face because of the indirect and direct results."
The National Mining Association hired consultants to conduct research rebutting Hendryx's studies, and he said coal-industry lawyers have filed "two very large" Freedom of Information Act requests with him. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. "sought subpoenas against Hendryx and WVU and fought to keep his studies out of a West Virginia federal case over a mining permit," Quiñones writes. And a Yale University public-health professor says Hendryx's has over-emphasized coal and de-emphasized other factors. But Hendryx is unfazed, telling Quiñones he will continue his research about the health effects of mountaintop removal and may start research about natural-gas drilling. (Read more)