WVU Study Links MTR to High-Risk Air Quality in Mining Towns
20 February 2014
By Ken Ward Jr.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. --A new study reports finding much larger levels
of tiny -- but potentially dangerous -- particles of air pollution
near mountaintop removal mining operations than in non-mining
The study by researchers working at West Virginia University is
the latest in a long series of papers to raise questions about the
public-health impact of large-scale surface coal mining in
The paper was published online Wednesday in the peer-reviewed Journal
of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.
Researchers compared the levels of various sizes of air-pollution
particles, including very small "ultra-fine particles," in two
communities near mining operations to a third community, with no
They found that concentrations of the smallest particles and the
potential for those particles to lodge in human lungs "were
significantly greater around mining areas compared with non-mining
areas," the study said.
The study said the results demonstrate "elevated risks to humans"
and that the greater lung dose "was correlated with elevated
disease rates in the West Virginia mining areas.
"Number concentrations at the mining areas were comparable to a
previously documented urban area where number concentration was
associated with respiratory and cardiovascular disease," the study
In recent years, former WVU researcher Michael Hendryx -- a
co-author of the new paper -- and others have published a series
of peer-reviewed studies examining possible links between
mountaintop removal and various illnesses.
The work has linked health and coal-mining data to show, among
other things, that residents living near mountaintop removal mines
face a greater risk of cancer, birth defects and premature deaths.
Continuing research, such as the new study published this week, is
trying to examine actual pollution levels near mining sites and in
mining communities, to provide more answers about the potential
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.