West Virginia Groups See Disease Threat from Surface Mines

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LOGAN, W.Va. (AP) – West Virginia environmentalists are urging a National Academies of Sciences committee examining the health risks from surface mining to look at rates of cancer, asthma and birth defects among people living near large-scale coal mines.

Representatives of Coal River Mountain Watch, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition say there’s a connection and scientists should pay close attention to the silica and fine particulates produced by blasting and digging, as well as water pollution.

The committee plans to identify the geological and geochemical characteristics of mining operations, regulatory framework, relevant scientific literature and its sufficiency and potential short- and long-term human health effects.

Committee Chairman Paul Locke, a Johns Hopkins School of Public Health professor, says the study should take about 18 months.