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WVU Study: Living In Coal-Mining Area Raises Health Hazards

March 26, 2008

Morgantown, WV – Living in a coal-mining area boosts a person's risk of contracting a number of serious illnesses, according to new research from West Virginia University. The report author, Michael Hendryx with the WVU Institute for Health Policy Research, examined statewide health surveys and found a definite link: The more coal that's mined in a community, the higher the health risk.

"People were more likely to report that they had chronic types of lung disease, heart disease or kidney disease if they lived in areas where the coal mining activity was heavy. It's pretty clear now that people who live in these communities are at increased risk for a number of serious illnesses."

Hendryx says there are ways to improve the situation, including better enforcement of environmental laws, improved access to health care in mining areas and more research into the possible health hazards of mining wastes, emissions, explosives and toxic run-off. The research factored in other variables, he explains, including poverty, smoking and other health issues, and it still found a definite link between coal mining and health risks.

Hendryx points out the diseases in question are often life-threatening. He's working on additional research that indicates a link exists between living in coal-mining areas and mortality rates.

"I'm finding there are elevated mortality rates in these same sets of conditions for chronic heart disease, chronic lung disease, kidney disease and also lung cancer."

Hendryx's study will appear in the April issue of the "American Journal of Public Health."

Rob Ferrett/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - WV