"After a decade of endless education and media campaigns, conferences and workshops, lobbying, and appealing to our elected officials, we have reached a moment of no return. The spiraling health crises in the central Appalachian coalfields have reached a breaking point."
So goes a powerful plea from internationally acclaimed Appalachian coalfield leaders Maria Gunnoe, Bo Webb and Mickey McCoy released today by journalist and author Jeff Biggers.
This last straw came in reaction to a horrifying new study, by Dr. Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University. For the years 2000-2003, mothers who smoked during pregnancy had a 17% higher risk of a baby born with a birth defect (compared to mothers who didn’t smoke). For mothers living in mountaintop mining areas, the risk was 42% higher (compared to mothers who lived in non-mining areas). For babies born specifically with defects of the circulatory or respiratory system, smoking increased risk by 17%, and living in a mountaintop mining area increased risk by 181%.
In conclusion, the study found: Living in a mountaintop mining area was a bigger risk for birth defects than smoking.
And so Appalachian leaders are appealing not on their own behalf anymore. They have already spent a prolonged decade living among the lethal fallout of mining operations — to a completely insufficient response from environmental, health, and safety regulators at all levels. In fact, August 3rd will mark the 34th anniversary of the federal sanctioning of mountaintop removal mining by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, signed by President Carter.
The people of Appalachia are now appealing to the nation on behalf of their children. On behalf of their grandchildren too.
They are calling on everyone to join together and demand an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal mining operations until the federal government can study and mitigate this health and humanitarian crisis. They are appealing for an intervention, before the staggering human costs and mounting death toll —all for a mere 5-8% of the nation's coal—can be stopped.
Join them. Stand with Appalachia and tell President Obama, Department of Health and Human Services chief Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder to enact an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal in until the Center for Disease Control and/or other federal regulatory agencies make a complete assessment of birth defects, cancer corridors, and other health impacts, and until the Department of Justice investigates criminal negligence connected to mountaintop removal mining.