Cancer Rates Higher Near Mountaintop Removal Sites

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalmemorialforthemountains/4535374630/sizes/m/in/photostream/">iLoveMountains.org</a>/Flickr

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


Communities near surface mining sites suffer much higher rates of cancer than other parts of West Virginia, according to a new study published this week in the Journal of Community Health. The researchers conclude that there are likely thousands of additional cases of cancer in communities near mountaintop removal sites.

West Virginia University researcher Dr. Michael Hendryx conducted the study in several West Virginia counties earlier this year, comparing rates in a county without mountaintop removal coal mining to two where the practice is taking place.

Jeff Biggers sums up the study over on Alternet:

“A door to door survey of 769 adults found that the cancer rate was twice as high in a community exposed to mountaintop removal mining compared to a non-mining control community,” said Hendryx, Associate Professor at the Department of Community Medicine and Director of West Virginia Rural Health Research Center at West Virginia University. “This significantly higher risk was found after control for age, sex, smoking, occupational exposure and family cancer history. The study adds to the growing evidence that mountaintop mining environments are harmful to human health.”

Nationally, 3.9 percent of Americans are cancer survivors, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but the rate in West Virginia is as high as 9.4 percent. This door-to-door survey found that the rate in the parts of the state affected by surface mining is actually 14.4 percent—a full 5 percent higher than the rest of the state. If the rates were projected across the 1.2 million people living in the region, that would mean as many as 60,000 additional cancer cases.

This report follows a study released last month from researchers at West Virginia University and Washington State University that also found higher rates of birth defects in communities near mountaintop removal sites. The ever-classy coal industry attempted to blame this on inbreeding rather than toxic mining pollution. I wonder what kind of defense they’ll offer for this latest study.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.