Mountaintop Removal Causes Birth Defects

Clean coal!

Researchers found "significantly higher" rates of birth defects in babies born near mountaintop removal mining sites than those in non-mining areas, according to a new study released last week. [...]

It found that rates for six out of seven types of birth defects -- circulatory/respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, urogenital and "other" -- were increased near MTR sites. The research suggests that contaminants are released into nearby environments from MTR, and that many of the contaminants are known to impair fetal development.

"Rates for any anomaly were approximately 235 per 100,000 live births in the mountaintop mining area versus 144 per 100,000 live births in the non-mining area," the study says. Although not as high as near MTR sites, it also found increased incidences of birth defects in communities near underground mines.

Certainly those areas are more impoverished, but that doesn't account for such an obvious and massive increase.

  • http://cousinavi.wordpress.com cousinavi
  • http://cousinavi.wordpress.com cousinavi

    “Oh, Marge, what’s the big deal? I bet before the papers blew this out of proportion, you didn’t even know how many eyes a fish had.”

  • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

    Certainly those areas are more impoverished, but that doesn’t account for such an obvious and massive increase.

    Well if the study was done properly they should have controlled for things such as socioeconomic factors, age of population, ethnicity, etc, etc. I don’t know enough about the reputation of the people at Environmental Research to gauge one way or the other.

    However, even if you don’t take those other things into account, the basic results of 1.5 times more birth defects is a startling increase and probably is too large to be accounted for by other factors. That’s creeping up toward birth defect rates in some 3rd world countries.

    • http://www.osborneink.com OsborneInk

      The study did, in fact, exclude the usual excuses. No blaming diet or smoking or anything else for these birth defects — the only unifying factor in Appalachia is coal, i.e. concentrated death. Surprisingly, when you tear dead stuff out of the ground where it’s been compressed for eons, the smoke and mine tailings you create turn out to be deadly. Whodathunkit!

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        I would assume that they did the usual exclusions. And common sense would dictate that stuff would be horrible. I mean we don’t have to look very far for how increased particulates, smoke, pollution, etc affect the health of local residents. Phoenix is a prime case of that with the rise in allergy sufferers and new asthma cases. Also there is a neighborhood in San Diego near the harbor where asthma is off the charts bad because of the particulates kicked into the air by all the boats going in and out (particularly the boats from countries that have little or no regulation on their emissions). I wonder if there were birth defects studies done for that community as well. Hmmmm…..

    • muselet

      I read the abstract and it sounds like the researchers did make a reasonable effort to control for socioeconomic and other factors. (It would be nice to see more than just the abstract, but them’s the breaks.)

      It’s nearly impossible to judge the quality of a journal without having experience in a field, but two things about Environmental Research stand out for me: first, it is peer-reviewed, so junk science is less likely to get in; and second, it’s published by Elsevier, which has a reputation for publishing high-quality journals.

      I’m willing to put this study in the “probably well-done” pile, at least for the time being.


      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        Cool. One argument that drives me crazy from wingnuts is when they say that peer review doesn’t do any good because its all a vast conspiracy cuz if all the peers are biased in wanting to declare something a problem, then they the whole process doesn’t work. Of course this is usually said by someone who doesn’t know any real scientists and doesn’t understand that they have a code of ethics, nor do they get the concept of reproducibility.

        I often wonder what kind of mindset, other than the paranoid schizophrenic one, produces such paranoia and a refusal to believe that an entire class of professional, worldwide is engaged in such a conspiracy. It reminds of the old saying, “Liars always think everyone is lying.”

        • http://twitter.com/bphoon Brian C

          You imply that ethics matter to wingnuts…