According to the results of a new study, there is a 26% higher risk of birth defects in children born in mining communities of Appalachia mountaintop counties.
Compared to the national average rate of birth defects in newborns of around 3%, the study shows that children born in mountaintop coal mining communities were born with a 26% higher risk for the same birth defects.
The study was conducted using data from Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia, four states with elevated levels of water and air pollution from mountaintop mining. This type of mining involves the use of blasting to take the tops off of mountains to expose the coal under the surface, throwing large amounts of coal and other pollutants into the air.
The researchers studied data from nearly 1,900,000 births between 1996 and 2003. The results showed a higher rate than the national average for heart, gastrointestinal and lung defects. Out of 10,000 live births in the mining communities, there was an average of 235 babies born with some type of birth defect, but in non-mining communities the average was 144.
Other factors considered in the study include poverty, social factors such as alcohol and tobacco consumption, ethnicity and education.