2017-08-23 / Opinions

Health study worth continuing

The U.S. Department of the Interior this week suspended a study by the National Academy of Sciences into the health effects of mountaintop removal mining.

Scientists and researchers have been collecting data about the health and lifespan of people living in areas around these mines. The study began at the request of environmental and health officials who were troubled to see a high rate of cancer, infant mortality and other disease trends among people living near mountaintop removal sites.

Public meetings in West Virginia were held this year to collect more information. It was an important step to determine if that method of mining is directly related to people’s health troubles.

There’s long been a concern about the effects of mountaintop removal mining on water quality. People living near mine sites must drink the water from the area around them. Some towns have treated public water systems. Many more do not.

Readers here in Morgan County are mostly removed from the daily realities of coal mining in West Virginia. But we are not immune to the impacts the industry has on the state and our fellow Mountaineers. Those impacts aren’t just financial, when the state budget swings high or low on coal production.

Clearly there is concern about the connection between modern methods of removing coal and public health near mine sites. Those concerns are worthy of serious study, and have been for a long time. With West Virginia’s poor health ranking, this is a chance to understand part of the picture. The National Academy of Sciences should be given the resources to move ahead with the work they have started, no matter what the results might say.

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