Mountaintop Removal Mining Raises Birth Defects

By Rainforest Action Network

In April I went to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington DC. Nancy is my representative and I was there to talk about her duty to protect U.S. communities and waterways from toxic mountaintop removal mining pollution.

My friend Erica was in the room with me. Erica lives in the Kentucky mountains, and her community is not being protected — she illustrated this by recounting the horror she felt on discovering that the water that she had bathed her small child in for years contained arsenic levels many times above the ‘safe’ level. It had been contaminated by surface coal mining.

A mountaintop removal mine above a community in Appalachia
A mountaintop removal mine above a community in Appalachia

Stories like these are shamefully too common in Appalachia. Yet, while they draw concerned expressions and sympathy from congressional staffers, too often they are dismissed as anecdotal and emotive.

Well, here’s some hard science to back it up.

A new study in the upcoming Environmental Research Journal concludes that children born in Appalachian mountaintop removal counties are at increased risk of suffering birth defects — the leading cause of infant deaths. The study, by Michael Hendryx and Melissa Ahern, examines two million births between 1996 and 2003 and disturbingly concludes that children born near mountaintop removal mines have a 26% higher risk of suffering birth defects, compared to ones born in non-mining regions.

We already know that MTR is destroying jobs and communities. Now we have evidence that it’s destroying human health.

Folks like Erica should be able to raise children without these threats. I’m sending this study direct to Pelosi’s office.