I’ve written several times about the toxic coal ash generated by mountaintop mining and how it poisons the air and water around it. It’s really quite a monumental thing, but as you know, anything to do with the energy industry in America is played down by most of the media. Now there’s this:
Researchers found “significantly higher” rates of birth defects in babies born near mountaintop removal mining sites than those in non-mining areas, according to a new study released last week.
Mountaintop removal mining is a particularly environmentally destructive type of resource extraction that involves using explosives to blow the tops off of mountains to expose coal underneath the soil and rock. The unusable dirt and gravel are then disposed of in adjacent valleys and streams. MTR is used prominently in the Appalachian region of the eastern United States.
The mining study, published in the journal Environmental Research, examined over 1.8 million live birth records from 1996 to 2003 using National Center for Health Statistics data from the central Appalachian states of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.
It found that rates for six out of seven types of birth defects — circulatory/respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, urogenital and “other” — were increased near MTR sites. The research suggests that contaminants are released into nearby environments from MTR, and that many of the contaminants are known to impair fetal development.
“Rates for any anomaly were approximately 235 per 100,000 live births in the mountaintop mining area versus 144 per 100,000 live births in the non-mining area,” the study says. Although not as high as near MTR sites, it also found increased incidences of birth defects in communities near underground mines.