Earlier this week, CHEJ released a report on the Health Impacts of Mountaintop Removal (MTR) Mining. This report reviewed the most significant studies on the human health impacts of MTR mining. The health studies described in this report provide strong evidence that MTR mining has impacted the residents in the surrounding communities and that further research is needed to better understand the relationship between adverse health effects and MTR mining.

The studies reviewed in this report show that MTR areas have higher rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease-related mortality, overall mortality, and birth defects, and that the residents of these areas report lower health-related quality of life than residents of any other part of Appalachia.

As part of this report, we commissioned a group of medical and scientific experts called the National Commission on Health Impacts of Mountaintop Removal Mining and asked them to review this report. Commission members included Dr. Jerome Paulson, Professor of Pediatrics & Public Health, George Washington University; Dr. Steven B. Wing, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill; and Dr. Daniel Wartenberg, Professor of Environmental Epidemiology and Statistics, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey.

The Commission strongly supported the findings in the report and developed recommendations to improve our understanding of the interactions between MTR mining and human health. The main recommendation called for “an immediate moratorium on MTR mining until such time as health studies have been conducted that provide a clearer understanding of the associations between adverse health impacts, notably adverse reproductive outcomes, and MTR mining.  In addition, during the moratorium period, appropriate safeguards including remediation and engineering controls should be implemented to mitigate air and water pollution related to MTR mining activities.”

The actions called for by the Commission are in line with recent government initiatives to protect the health of Appalachian communities. In February 2013, Congressional Representatives re-introduced the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act (ACHE Act, HR 526. If passed this bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to lead a federal investigation of the reported links between MTR mining and human health impacts. Until such an investigation is conducted, the ACHE Act would require a moratorium on all new MTR permits, as well as on any expansion of existing permits. The ACHE Act would address the primary recommendation of the Commission which is to place an immediate moratorium on MTR mining until such time as health studies have been conducted that provide a clearer understanding of the associations between adverse health impacts and MTR mining

To read the report including the commission’s statement and recommendations, click here.