Birth defects linked to mountaintop removal practices

July 14, 2011 at 3:29 PM
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PITTSBURGH, July 14 (UPI) -- Birth defects are significantly higher in and around central Appalachian areas where controversial mountaintop removal coal mining takes place, a study says.

Environmentalists are citing the study by West Virginia University Professor Michael Hendryx and others as another reason to halt the controversial mining practice, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Thursday.

In a review of National Center for Health Statistics birth defect records from 1996 through 2003, the study found "rates for any anomaly [birth defect] were approximately 235 per 10,000 live births in the mountaintop mining area versus 144 per 10,000 live births in the non-mining area."

"What more does it take to put the brakes on mountaintop removal?" Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said. "There is already strong scientific evidence that this extreme form of strip mining harms people's health and the environment. Now we find out that unborn children may be victims too."

Maria Gunnoe of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition urged Congress to call a moratorium on all mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies conduct a health effects assessment.

Mountaintop mining operations have cleared more than 2,000 square miles of Appalachian ridges in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky and Tennessee, the Post-Gazette said.

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