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Mountaintop Mining Causes Birth Defects?

Mountaintop Mining Causes Birth Defects?

Birth defects are significantly more common in areas of mountaintop coal mining and are increasing as the practice becomes more common, according to a study by researchers at Washington State University and West Virginia University.

Led by Melissa Ahern, health economist and associate professor at the WSU College of Pharmacy, the researchers found 235 birth defects per 10,000 births four central Appalachian states where mountaintop mining is most common in–nearly two times the rate of 144 defects per 10,000 in non-mining areas.

The study found counties in and near mountaintop mining areas had higher rates of birth defects for five out of six types of birth defects: circulatory/respiratory , central nervous system, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, and urogenital defects. These defect rates became more pronounced in the more recent period studied, suggesting the health effects of mountaintop mining-related air and water contamination may be cumulative.

Other studies have found low birth weights and increased levels of adult disease and death in coal mining areas–but this study suggests that the problems are specifically high and concentrated in mountaintop areas.

“The findings contribute to the growing evidence that mountaintop mining is done at substantial expense to the environment, to local economies and to human health,” the authors write in a recent issue of the peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Research.

Mountaintop mining uses explosives to destroy ridges and deposit the rock and soil in local valleys. More than 2,700 mountain ridges, as well as thousands of rivers, have been ruined or altered by the practice in areas of eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, southern West Virginia, and southwestern Virginia. Research has shown higher levels of pollutants in these areas, including mercury, lead, and arsenic.

Answering to the increased demand for the fuel, mountaintop mining increased 250 percent between 1985 and 2005.


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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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10:13AM PST on Nov 28, 2012

thanks for the article

12:49AM PDT on Aug 23, 2012

Thank you for the interesting post.

11:54PM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

Thank SICK!

5:27PM PDT on Apr 15, 2012


12:08PM PST on Mar 9, 2012

Sesli Chat Sesli Sohbet Kamerali Sohbet Eglenceli Chat Sitesi Seslichat

9:04PM PDT on Sep 15, 2011

Well I definatetly believe that.

11:08AM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

I believe it since coal is dangerous.

11:38AM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

Noted with sadness.

8:22PM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

I have seen the devastating effects the Coal industry has on our children first hand. I lived in Singleton NSW Australia with my children and could not get my daughters Asthma under control. She was on Steroids and 4 hourly nebulizers of Ventolin. I moved her away from there to the Central Coast and without the filthy air and dust from these mines my daughter has not had an Asthma attack in 8 years and is medication FREE. No MIne NO ASTHMA ???????

12:45AM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

Its really sad these people are only interested in money they do not care about people or their health

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