HEALTH IMPACTS OF COAL MINING

Feb 2, 2017 by

“As I heard the news of the birth defects study, as the weight of it fell on me, I immediately thought of my oldest nephew who at that moment was walking in the hills behind my house with his long time girlfriend. They didn’t say it, but I know they were daydreaming a life together, scouting out a good spot to build a house when they are both out of college, imagining another generation of Mays climbing to the highrocks, swinging from grapevines and playing in the creek. Knowing what I now know about the consequences of MTR on our health I have to ask: Is it selfish, is it unloving of me to hope they will come home to Floyd County? If we saw justice, I would never have to ask that question.”

Beverly May
Floyd County

COMMUNITY SCIENCE AND PUBLIC HEALTH

In eastern Kentucky our water, land and air are contaminated by mountaintop removal. Volumes of scientific studies illustrate the harm to human health from exposure to dust and numerous toxins released into the air and water by surface mining.

In recent years, several peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated that:

  • people living near mountaintop mining have cancer rates of 14.4% compared to 9.4% for people elsewhere in Appalachia
  • the rate of children born with birth defects was 42% higher in areas near mountaintop removal mining
  • the public health costs of pollution from coal operations in Appalachia amount to a staggering $75 billion a year

Surface and ground water near mountaintop removal carries elevated levels of heavy metals and carcinogens that can persist for decades after mining ceases. Scientists have found evidence that soil has also been affected, most likely by the large amounts of diesel fuel used in blasting. And airborne particles near mining sites contain ammonium nitrate, silica and sulfur compounds, to name a few.

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