Babies With Birth Defects: Mountain Top Removal Mining Linked to Deformities

Jun 21, 2011, 19:18 ET from Environmental Health Fund

BEREA, Ky., June 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new study conducted by Dr. Melissa Ahern at Washington State University, Dr. Michael Hendryx and others at WV University finds significantly higher rates of birth defects in mountaintop removal coal mining (MTM) areas. "The Association between Mountaintop Mining and Birth Defects among Live Births in Central Appalachia, 1996-2003" is now available online in Environmental Research.

"Places where mining has disturbed the environment are also the places where birth defect rates are the highest," said Dr. Ahern.  "Mountaintop removal mining may cause health impacts on people living in those areas before they are even born."

Researchers analyzed birth records between 1996 and 2003 in central Appalachia.  Prevalence rates were higher in mountaintop mining areas compared to non-mining areas for six major types of defects. The effects became more pronounced in the latter years.

Dr. Hendryx said, "This study extends previous research on low birth weight and on adult morbidity and mortality in coal mining areas, and offers one of the first indications that health problems are disproportionately concentrated specifically in MTM areas.  It's significant not only to people who live in coalfields but to policy makers as well."  

Mountaintop removal operations are currently underway in central Appalachian states.  EPA estimated 1,408,372 acres in central Appalachia have already been destroyed or were slated to be lost to mountaintop removal mining.

"Mountaintop removal is not necessary; it destroys jobs, it destroys communities, and it is destroying human health," said Bo Webb, from Coal River Valley, WV.  "I'm calling on Congress to immediately place a moratorium on all mountaintop mining in Appalachia."

Beverly May, a nurse practitioner serving in eastern Kentucky agreed, saying, "Governor Beshear needs to use his power to stop, right now, mining practices that are poisoning us.  He needs to do right by our children."

Maria Gunnoe, a WV mom with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition said, "Our governors and federal legislators are protecting the coal industry at any cost.  Shame on them for shutting us out of decisions that mean the life or death of our communities."

Deborah Payne, MPH, with the Kentucky Environmental Foundation said, "The longer legislators deny the impacts of coal pollution on health, the more lives are damaged.  Children's health should not be sacrificed when cleaner, renewable electricity is available."

For more info and contacts:, or (859) 986-0868.

SOURCE Environmental Health Fund