Monday, April 16, 2012

Researcher discusses correlations between mining and health problems, not proven causes

Do people in the Central Appalachian coalfield have more health problems and shorter lives because of mountaintop-removal mining? That hasn't been proven, but a West Virginia University researcher says he has found several correlations that suggest cause and effect. Michael Hendryx discussed and defended his work in a lecture last week at Morehead State University in Kentucky, near the coalfield's western edge.

"Hendryx said factors that have the most impact on public health are really basic things, including education, income and poverty. In Central Appalachia, which includes Eastern Kentucky, upper East Tennessee, the southern half of West Virginia and southwest Virginia, those factors are all lowest in places where the heaviest mining occurs," reports Ivy Brashear of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

"His initial analysis found that mortality rates in the coal-mining region of Central Appalachia are 97 percent higher than in the rest of the region. Among the obvious causes are high rates of poverty, smoking, diabetes and obesity, but Hendryx said he  and his research team found that 'There’s something left over that’s unique to mining environment' after controlling data for those other factors. High rates of chronic heart, lung and kidney disease, and some types of cancer, 'are concentrated most in those areas where mining takes place, especially mountaintop mining,' Hendryx said. The same patterns are seen with birth defects."

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett said in an email, “Dr. Michael Hendryx is an anti-coal ideologue who is masquerading again as an ‘objective researcher’.” (Read more)

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