For years, the coal industry has dismissed the idea that mountaintop mining adversely affects people living nearby. But research by Indiana University’s Michael Hendryx provides stark evidence that this widespread mining practice is leading to increases in disease and deaths in Appalachia.
The devastating environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia have long been well documented. But over the last decade, Indiana University researcher Michael Hendryx has been examining another consequence of this form of coal surface mining that had previously been overlooked: the health impacts on the people in the surrounding communities.
What he has found, Hendryx says, is a public health disaster, with more than a thousand extra deaths each year in areas of Appalachia where mountaintop removal (MTR) operations take place.
The air and water pollution caused by this mining practice, which involves deforesting and tearing off mountaintops to get at the coal, is leading to increases in cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, pulmonary disease, and birth defects, his research shows.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Hendryx talks about why he believes scientists were slow to consider the health impacts of mountaintop removal mining; what he thinks about the Trump administration’s recent decision to halt a government-funded study on MTR’s health risks; and why he disputes the notion that mountaintop mining is essential for economic development in Appalachia.
“Blowing up mountains, deforesting large tracts of land, polluting streams, destroying roads from all the trucks going by, coating the landscape in dust, making people sick— what other employers are going to move into that area?” he says.
For the rest of this interview: http://e360.yale.edu/features/a-troubling-look-at-the-human-toll-of-mountaintop-removal-mining