Federal study in Central Appalachia will try to see if living near a surface coal mine is bad for your health

Scientists from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine will study Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and the coal regions of Virginia and Tennessee to determine if living near a surface mine increases the risk of health problems, Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

“A number of studies have shown that mountaintop mining is associated with higher rates of cancer, heart disease and other health problems in Central Appalachia,” Estep writes. “Michael S. Hendryx, a professor who did several of the studies while formerly at West Virginia University, told the Herald-Leader last year that the studies were adjusted to account for factors such as higher rates of smoking and obesity in the region.”

“However, the coal industry has fiercely disputed the studies, and a 2012 industry-funded study by a Yale University researcher and others concluded that ‘coal mining is not per se the cause of increased mortality in rural Appalachia,” Estep writes. “The study by the National Academies could identify gaps in existing research and help settle some of the uncertainties about the issue.”

The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, which commissioned the two-year study, “said the research agency would choose experts to examine a ‘growing amount of academic research that relates to possible correlations between increased health risks as a result of living near surface coal mine operations,'” Estep writes. “The study will involve synthesizing existing research, not conducting new field studies.” (Read more)

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