Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | March 26, 2008

West Virginia study looks at relationship between coal mining and human health

A medical study by the University of West Virginia’s Health Sciences Center looked to see if there is a relationship between coal production and forms of cardiovascular, lung, and kidney disease in the state. The study, “Relations between Health Indicators and Residential Proximity to Coal Mining in West Virginia,” will appear in the April 2008 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.   Michael Hendryx, Ph.D., associate director of the WVU Institute for Health Policy Research in WVU’s Community Medicine department and Melissa Ahern, Ph.D., of Washington State University were co-authors of the study that used data from a 2001 WVU Health Policy Research telephone survey of more than 16,400 West Virginians.  Data from that survey was correlated with data from the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, which shows volume of coal production from mining in each of the state’s 55 counties.   According to the study, as coal production increases, so does the incidence of chronic illness.  Coal-processing chemicals, equipment powered by diesel engines, explosives, toxic impurities in coals, and even dust from uncovered coal trucks can cause environmental pollution that could have a negative effect on public health.  According to Hendryx, the data show that people in coal mining communities have a 70 percent increased risk for developing kidney disease; have a 64 percent increased risk for developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) such as emphysema; and are 30 percent more likely to report high blood pressure (hypertension).  According to Hendryz, data was adjusted to account for less access to health care, higher smoking rates and poorer economic conditions.  Even with those adjustments, the study found disease rates were higher in coal-mining communities than the general population.For more information, please contact: West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, PO Box 9083, Morgantown, WV 26506-9083,

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