NAS Committe Seeks to Answer Question: Does Living Near a Coal Mine Impact Human Health?

May 24, 2017

If you live near a mining site – either old or active - is your health at risk? That’s what a committee from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine is trying to find out.

 

The committee is conducting a literature review of data from four states – West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee – to see if any scientific publicans point to potential human health effects related to surface coal mining operations. The group is also conducting a series of public meetings with state environmental and health agencies as well as facilitating town halls with community members. Their second open session was held yesterday, in Logan, WV.

 

Panelists included representatives from several WV and VA state agencies, such as Jake Glance from the WV Department of Environmental Protection.

 

“The DEP has a great deal of water quality information coming in,” said Glance during his presentation. “As I’ve said we’ve taken more than two million samples over the last several decades. The main issue is not the quality of data that’s coming in or the lack of data that’s coming in. It becomes a question of being able to quickly access that data and have it available – make it available – in the correct format.”

 

After the presentations, committee members like professor of epidemiology Greg Wellenius from Brown University, asked panelists questions such as:

 

“So Mr. Glance, you suggested you tracked complaints related to surface mining operations. Can you describe the quantity and summarize the content of those complaints?”  

 

The review will be conducted over 24 months – the committee is currently in the beginning stages of that process. The goal is to figure out what kind of data and monitoring already exists and to identify gaps in research that would ultimately help experts develop safeguards for protecting the health of those living close to surface coal mine sites.  

 

 

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.