West Virginia Asks for Health Study to Determine Health Impact of Mountaintop Coal Mining

Posted Aug. 17, 2016

MP3 Interview with Michael Hendryx, professor, School of Public Health, at Indiana University, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


It was recently announced that the National Academy of Sciences will undertake a study of the health impacts of surface coal mining in West Virginia, with a focus on mountaintop removal, in which the tops of mountain ridges are blasted off to extract the coal seams beneath. Residents of communities near mountaintop removal mining sites have long complained about air and water pollution, resulting in what they say are severe health impacts such as increased risk of cancer, birth defects and premature death. Area citizens have been organizing support for a federal law called the Appalachia Community Health Emergency Act, or ACHE Act, which would end the permitting of new mountaintop removal sites until thorough health studies could be conducted to provide evidence that the mining practice doesn't threaten public health.

The request for the National Academy of Sciences study was made by West Virginia's longtime Secretary of Environmental Protection Randy Huffman, whom activists had long considered hostile to their concerns, and the relatively new state public health commissioner, Rahul Gupta, who has a reputation as a defender of public health. Their request was based largely on research by professor Michael Hendryx, who conducted health studies for years while at West Virginia University.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Hendryx – now a professor in the Department of Applied Health Science in the School of Public Health at Indiana University – about the work he has done to highlight the health risks of mountaintop removal coal mining and what he hopes a new study will accomplish.

See more publications by Michael Hendryx.

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