Evidence is mounting that people living in communities near mountaintop removal coal mining sites are at risk for a range of major health problems. While it has long been suspected that was the case, more recent peer reviewed studies have looked at the question more systematically and have turned up compelling results.
For example, one peer reviewed study found that such communities, when compared to communities surrounding other mines, showed elevated levels of birth defects in the following categories: circulatory/respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, and gastrointestinal.
Another analysis in Science that also looked at communities near mountaintop removal coal mining communities found that “Groundwater samples from domestic supply wells have higher levels of mine-derived chemical constituents than well water from unmined areas. Human health impacts may come from contact with streams or exposure to airborne toxins and dust. State advisories are in effect for excessive human consumption of [Selenium] in fish from MTM/VF affected waters. Elevated levels of airborne, hazardous dust have been documented around surface mining operations. Adult hospitalizations for chronic pulmonary disorders and hypertension are elevated as a function of county-level coal production, as are rates of mortality; lung cancer; and chronic heart, lung, and kidney disease. Health problems are for women and men, so effects are not simply a result of direct occupational exposure of predominantly male coal miners.”
The Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act will provide the families in these communities the answers and the protection they deserve. It will provide a full scientific analysis of the potential health threats to affected communities. It would place a moratorium on new mountaintop removal coal mines and expansion of existing mines until the science demonstrates the mines will not cost them their lives or their health.