Water Not the Only Resource At Risk: Air Quality Will Suffer if Mine is Built

Mountaintop removal in Kentucky. Photo: mountainroadshow.com

Mountaintop removal in Kentucky. Photo: http://www.mountainroadshow.com

Air quality issues have not been heard much in the discussion of a mine in the Penokees.  Bob Kincaid of Appalachian Community Health Emergency and Vernon Holtom, executive director of Coal River Mountain Watch shared some of their insights.

Bob Kincaid

In addition to questions about water impacts, ask [the mining company] about the amount of ammonium nitrate/fuel oil (ANFO) explosives they plan to use. Ask if they know the size of the airborne particulates that will come from the blast. Ask what those incompletely combusted organic particulates contain. Ask whether there is any scientific research regarding the impacts of such particulates.

Answers: (1) Blasting on the scale they intend will require millions of pounds of ANFO explosives, the same stuff that blew up in West, Texas; (2) the ultra-fine particulates are less than 1/100th the diameter of a human hair, i.e. the size of a virus and the human body can’t stop something that small from entering the body; (3) the ultra-fine particulates will contain Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) toxins. They are LOADED with them; (4) the science is under the “Ache Science” tab at www.AcheAct.org. It shows a whole host of diseases coming from PAH toxins.

Be strong and ask these questions, for which they are utterly unprepared, and they will be rocked on their heels. They’re somewhat ready for water questions. When you talk about air quality issues, they’ll know you know their dirty little secret.
Appalachian Community Health Emergency

Vernon Haltom
Executive Director
Coal River Mountain Watch

Summary of surface mining impacts in Appalachia

Blasting and dust: mining companies use a mix of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (diesel), known together as ANFO, to blast the land near our homes.

-In addition to ruining our aquifers (and well water), cracking our foundations, and causing us stress and torment from the earthquake-like detonations, the dust clouds settle onto our property and lungs.

-Dust monitors near our homes have collected elevated levels of particulates too small for our lungs to remove, consisting of glassy silica and the blasting residue, including carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Lab studies have linked these pollutants to Cardiovascular Dysfunction.

-PAHs include some of the first carcinogens identified in cigarette smoke. Even on days when there is no blasting, a dusty haze lingers in our air on dry days. We have even been advised not to eat our garden vegetables because of contamination from the residue.

Health impacts: approximately 25 peer-reviewed health studies have indicated significantly elevated rates of deadly illnesses in communities exposed to surface mining, even after accounting for other contributing factors.

-Birth defects: babies born to mothers living in surface mining regions of Appalachia are 42% more likely to have birth defects than those in communities without surface mining. This is more than double the elevated risk of birth defects attributable to maternal smoking (18%). Ahern, M., M. Hendryx, J. Conley, E. Fedorko, A. Ducatman, and K. Zullig. (2011) “The association between mountaintop mining and birth defects among live births in central Appalachia, 1996–2003.”

-Cancer: people in surface mining regions of Appalachia are significantly more likely to have cancer than people elsewhere. A 2011 survey indicated that residents of the Coal River Valley were more than twice as likely to have cancer as the residents of a county without surface mining. Hendryx, M., L. Wolfe, J. Luo, and B. Webb. (2011) “Self-Reported Cancer Rates in Two Rural Areas of West Virginia with and Without Mountaintop Coal Mining.”

-Other studies demonstrate higher rates of mortality, heart disease, and a host of other deadly results. http://www.crmw.net/resources/health-impacts.php

This is only a short list, not including the water pollution from runoff, damage to roads from increased truck traffic, deforestation, and damage to local economies.

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