Researchers from West Virginia University studied cancer rates in counties of West Virginia where mountaintop removal is practiced for coal mining. In these areas they found a higher cancer rate, “There are 1.2 million people who live in mountaintop coal mining counties in central Appalachia based on 2010 US Census data. If the rates found in this study represent the region, a 5% higher cancer rate (14.4% vs. 9.4%) translates to an additional 60,000 people with cancer in central Appalachian mountaintop mining counties.” (Source: Mother Jones)
The researchers did acknowledge there is uncertainty in generalizing the results of their survey to the entire population living in the area, as there can be with any study. Their research team tried to contact 2,679 households, and conducted interviews with 773 individuals from 702 households in the area where mountaintop removal is practiced. The surveys were conducted in the Coal River and Pocahontas areas.
The chance of individuals in the survey reporting cancer was twice as high in the mountaintop removal area than in the area without it. Perhaps even more shocking, is the fact the researchers did not record information for people in the mountaintop removal area who have already died from cancer, yet it has already been established that higher lung cancer mortality is associated with coal mining. In other words, it is likely there were even more households in the area studied that had been impacted by cancer. The reason for the increased cancer rate is exposure to coal dust, “many chemicals that are present in coal, coal strata, and coal processing activities are established or possible carcinogens.” (Source: Mother Jones)
One of the researchers said, “This significantly higher risk was found after control for age, sex, smoking, occupational exposure and family cancer history. The study adds to the growing evidence that mountaintop mining environments are harmful to human health.” (Source: Mother Jones)
Millions of pounds of explosives are used weekly to blow up the mountaintops of West Virginia. The constant destruction wrought by mountaintop removal has also killed hundreds of thousands of acres of natural habitat for wildlife.
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