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Clean Coal Gives Lungs Cancer in Appalachia

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Mountaintop removal mining site  photo by: AP Photo/Jeff Gentner
Mountaintop removal mining site
photo by: AP Photo/Jeff Gentner

Researchers in West Virginia University recently published an article in the journal Environmental Science and Technology that tied lung cancer to coal dust released in mountaintop removal mining in the Appalachian mountains.  “It’s a risk factor, with other risk factors, that increases the risks of getting lung cancer,” study co-author and West Virginia University cancer researcher Yon Rojanasakul told the Charleston Gazette. “That’s what the results show.”  The study is just the latest of several that cited the health risks of continued coal mining, particularly of this method.

Michael Hendryx, a researcher formerly affiliated with WVU (now with Indiana University) and who has looked into the issue before said, “with this study we have solid evidence that mining dust collected from residential communities causes cancerous human lung cell changes.”

The worst part is that the local communities are sacrificed to meet foreign demand for Appalachian coal.  A number of coal miners are hesitant to migrate to the north where natural gas deposits abound.  Unfortunately, mining jobs are dwindling as coal plants give way to cheaper natural gas coupled with increasing mechanization of coal mining operations.  From a peak of 140,000 jobs at the start of WWII, the number of coal miners was just 22,000 in 2011 and is now around just 14,000.  A further decline in global demand is bound to reduce the figure even further.

Just the same, as long as mountaintop removal mining persists, we are bound to see new lung cancer cases.  I guess that there really is no way to clear away the black color of coal.

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