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Research Examines Health Impact of Mining -- Illness, Premature Deaths Cost Appalachia Billions
Date:6/26/2009

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., June 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The costs of illness and premature deaths in Appalachia related to coal mining far outweigh economic benefits the industry brings to the region, says Michael Hendryx, Ph.D., associate director of the West Virginia University Institute for Health Policy Research in WVU's Department of Community Medicine.

"The human cost of the Appalachian coal mining economy outweighs its economic benefits," Hendryx and co-author Melissa Ahern, Ph.D., of Washington State University say in a study published in the July-August issue of the journal Public Health Reports. The paper is titled "Mortality in Appalachian Coal Mining Regions: The Value of Statistical Life Lost."

"If we were serious about developing a strong economy, we'd develop an economy not dependent on coal," Hendryx says. "Throughout Appalachia, people in counties with no coal mining operations experience better health, a cleaner environment and greater economic prosperity than counties where mining takes place."

While coal mining contributed $8 billion to Appalachia in terms of economic impacts, the costs of shortened life spans associated with coal operations ranged from $16.979 billion to $84.544 billion, the study found. Figures are from 2005, the latest year for which mortality rates were available.

"Those who are falling ill and dying young are not just the coal miners," Hendryx says. "Everyone who lives near the mines or processing plants or transportation centers is affected by chronic socioeconomic weakness that takes a toll in longevity and health."

Coal mining areas in Appalachia experience almost 11,000 more deaths each year compared with comparable areas elsewhere in the nation, with approximately 2,300 of those deaths related to environmental factors such as air and water pollution made worse by mining, Hendryx says. He adds:


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SOURCE West Virginia University Health Sciences Center
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