According to a new study by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, adverse health outcomes, including mortality, occur at higher rates in the Appalachian region of the U.S. However, conflicting evidence has been found regarding whether these disparities are due primarily to coal mining. The findings, reported in a research bulletin for the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES), based at Virginia Tech, are part of a growing body of research about the potential effects of coal mining on health outcomes, which environmentalists and regulators have used to call for tougher standards.
Mortality was generally higher in mining counties, researchers found. For example, the cancer death rate for men between 2005 and 2007 was 266.3 per 100,000 people in mining counties, compared with 252 per 100,000 people in non-mining counties. The results of these analyses indicate that total and cause-specific mortality is elevated in WV coal-mining counties relative to Appalachian non-coal mining counties for certain causes of death. Additional studies of Appalachian mortality are required to understand the complex interactions of factors and determine the extent to which coal mining plays a part.
Researchers will present the new findings at SME’s Environmental Considerations in Energy Production conference April 14-18 in Charleston, WV.