Michael Hendryx, Ph.D., director of the West Virginia University Rural Health Research Center, is one of a group of scientists whose research has led to a call for a moratorium on permits for mountaintop mining. In this week’s edition of the journal Science, they argue that peer-reviewed research unequivocally documents irreversible environmental impacts from this form of mining which also exposes local residents to a higher risk of serious health problems.
Hendryx, who joined other study authors at a Washington press event Thursday, said the human health impacts associated with surface mining for coal in the Appalachian region include elevated rates of mortality, lung cancer, and chronic heart, lung and kidney disease in coal producing communities. He has studied the impact of coal mining on public health in mining communities for several years.
“Throughout Appalachia, people in counties with no coal mining operations experience better health, a cleaner environment and greater economic prosperity than counties where mining takes place,” Hendryx said. “Those who are falling ill and dying young are not just the coal miners. Everyone who lives near the mines or processing plants or transportation centers is affected by chronic socioeconomic weakness that takes a toll in longevity and health.”
The authors – hydrologists, ecologists and engineers, including several members of the National Academy of Sciences—argue that peer-reviewed research unequivocally documents irreversible environmental impacts from this form of mining. The group called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to stop issuing all new mountaintop mining permits.
“The scientific evidence of the severe environmental and human impacts from mountaintop mining is strong and irrefutable,” says lead author Margaret Palmer, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland, College Park. “Its impacts are pervasive and long lasting and there is no evidence that any mitigation practices successfully reverse the damage it causes.”
The article, “Mountaintop Mining Consequences,” appears in the January 8, 2010 edition of Science.
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Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087