WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. May 13, 2013 New research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center finds that suicide, while strongly associated with psychiatric conditions, also correlates with environmental pollution.
Lead researcher John G. Spangler, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of family medicine at Wake Forest Baptist, looked specifically at the relationship between air pollution and emissions from coal-fired electricity plants.
"This study raises interesting questions about suicide rates in counties where coal-fired electrical plants operate and suggests that the quality of air can affect people suffering from different mood disorders," Spangler said.
For this ecological study, Spangler evaluated air level contaminates in 20 North Carolina counties where coal-fired electricity plants existed, using data from the 2000 U.S. Census, 2001-2005 mortality rates from the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
County-level suicide rates were higher overall in North Carolina (12.4 per 100,000 population) compared to the U.S. population (10.8 per 100,000). The study found that for each additional coal-fired electricity plant per N.C. county, there were about two additional suicides per 100,000 population annually per county. As there were 20 coal-fired electricity plants in North Carolina when this study was carried out, that means there were about 40 suicides a year per 100,000 population related to the plants. When applied to the state's year 2,000 population of 8,049,313, this equals about 3,220 suicides a year associated with coal-fired electricity plants.
The study is published in the most recent online edition of the Journal of Mood Disorders.
"The presence of a coal-fired electricity plant correlated with airborne levels of nickel, mercury, lead, chromium, cadmium, beryllium and arsenic," Spangler said.
While prior research has evaluated the associatio
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Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center