New Tool Reveals “The Human Cost” Of Mountaintop Removal

Published Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 11:24 am

ILoveMountains.Org Uses Scientific Data To Show
Negative Health Effects Of Destructive Mining Practice

Tuesday, February 14, 2012
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CONTACTS:
For I Love Mountains Day: Jerry Hardt, jhardt@kftc.org, 502-439-6884
For iLoveMountains.org: Kate Rooth, kate@appvoices.org, (704) 516-0092
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A group of environmental advocates is launching a new mapping tool that uses scientific evidence and government data to plot the human casualties of mountaintop removal coal mining.

The comprehensive tool, created by Appalachian Voices for iLoveMountains.org, is being released in conjunction with the annual I Love Mountains Day in Frankfurt, Ky. More than 1,200 citizens are expected to gather on the state’s capitol steps on Valentine’s Day to advocate for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining, a destructive practice that has shortened lifespans and caused illnesses in Central Appalachia for decades.

“In the past year several studies have come out about the health impacts of living near mountaintop removal mining,” said Ada Smith, 24, a Letcher County, Ky., resident and a speaker at I Love Mountains Day. “Though many of the studies state the obvious for those of us living in these communities, the scientific facts give us much-needed evidence to make sure our laws are truly enforced for the health of our land and people.”

The new tool on iLoveMountains.org called “The Human Cost of Coal” is an accumulation of data from verified government sources and peer-reviewed scientific studies plotted on a Google map to show the correlation between mountaintop removal coal mining and increased health problems, lowered life expectancy and high poverty rates in Central Appalachia.

“It is important to realize that birth defects for babies born in [areas impacted by] mountaintop removal are over twice as high than if the mother smokes during pregnancy, and over 10 times as high for circulatory/ respiratory defects,” said Vernon Haltom from Coal River Mountain Watch.

“The Human Cost of Coal” layer pulls from national data including poverty rates from the 2010 U.S. Census, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and life expectancy and population numbers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The site also includes summaries for more than twenty peer-reviewed studies from 2007 to 2011 that provide evidence that human health problems such as heart, respiratory and kidney diseases, cancer, low birth weight and serious birth defects are significantly higher in communities near mountaintop removal mine sites.

“Living at the toe of a mountaintop removal site, the impacts were clear to me years ago. [These studies] confirm we have a problem,” said Maria Gunnoe, a mother who lives near a mountaintop mining site in Boone County, W.V. and became an organizer for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition to combat the issue in her community.

Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining that involves using heavy explosives to blast off the tops of mountains and dumping the resulting waste into nearby valleys, burying headwater streams. More than 500 mountains and 2,000 miles of streams have been destroyed in Central and Southern Appalachia by mountaintop removal mining. Numerous health and environmental issues have been linked with the radical form of mining in the region.

ILoveMountains.org is a project of The Alliance for Appalachia, which is made up of thirteen local, state and regional organizations across Appalachia working together to end mountaintop removal and create a prosperous future for the region.

To view “The Human Cost of Coal,” visit iLoveMountains.org/the-human-cost.

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To schedule interviews or obtain images and video b-roll, please contact kate@appvoices.org.

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