Jodi Jarrell just had her third bout with brain cancer, receiving a
stem cell transplant in July. She can’t prove her ailments are the
result of exposure to mountaintop removal coal mining, but she
believes they are. A score of scientific studies seem to back her up,
and now residents of Appalachia who live near mountaintop removal
sites are joining together to demand a moratorium on new mining
permits until comprehensive health studies are done. MT reports from
Peer-reviewed studies published in the past four years show that
serious health problems like elevated rates of birth defects and
cancer afflict residents who live near mountaintop removal mining
Jodi Jarrell, who’s 36, grew up in the West Virginia town of Prenter,
population about 2,500. She is just one of a half dozen neighbors
diagnosed with brain cancer in the past few years, several of whom
have died. Other residents have contracted other sometimes fatal
:10 We lived there all these years, we know it’s been detrimental to
our health. you know, you try to say something to the coal companies,
the politicians, and nobody cares…coal is king.
Dr. Dan Doyle has worked as a family physician since 1978 at the New
River Health Center serving Fayette County. Sitting on his front
porch, he relates other disturbing news.
CUT :23 One of the studies that had the greatest impact was the
study that came out in early 2011 that showed an increased incidence
of birth defects in MTR communities compared to Appalachian coal
mining communities without MTR mining, and compared to non-mining
Dr. Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University was the lead author on
most of these health studies. He says the excess cancer rates, birth
defects, and cardiovascular and lung disease in mountaintop removal
mining communities are present throughout the communities after
controlling for smoking, poverty, age, low level of education, obesity
or other risks. He says
CUT :11 We don’t yet have the direct evidence that links env
conditions in a mining area to the specific health problems
experienced by individuals.
Still, he says,
CUT :24 MTR mining should be stopped. The evidence for it is
overwhelming, just in terms of its environmental impacts. Put human
health impacts aside if you don’t believe the evidence for that is
convincing enough yet. The evidence is compelling that water pollution
alone that’s coming off the mining sites is in violation of existing
Bo Webb lives underneath an MTR coal mining operation in the town of
Naoma. He and other activists started a new organization this year
zeroing in, not on the environmental degradation of the process, where
most opposition has focused up to now, but on human health impacts.
CUT :10 We have to end this in Washington, D.C. We’re never gonna
end it in Charleston, W.V. — it’s not gonna happen. The coal industry
is too embedded here; they own the government.
Webb describes the elements of the Appalachian Communities Health
Emergency Act, which so far has 20 sponsors in Congress.
CUT :24 No new MTR permits; no expansion of existing permits. The
ones that have their permits now, they can go ahead and mine, but
that’s coupled with a health study through the DSS, and when that
health study is complete, then the Secretary of Health will publish a
report saying whether MTR is causing harm to human health or not.
Webb is confident what the study would show, but it’s a longer shot to
get the legislation passed so the study can begin. In the meantime,
coal companies continue to get permits to blast the tops off mountain
MT, WIN, Fayetteville, WV.