Physicians and epidemiologists now consider the existing body of literature concerning the health impacts of coal sufficiently robust to make policy recommendations. Two US studies released this winter cite evidence for marked degradation of human and ecosystem health in the vicinity of coal extraction, combustion, and waste storage activities, and propose policy solutions.
December 2009: Coal’s Assault on Human Health
Shortly before the Coal Health Speaking Tour of the Greater Hunter Region was to begin, the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) released a reassessment of the adverse health impacts of coal excavation, coal combustion, and coal waste storage.
The 64-page PSR report, Coal’s Assault on Human Health, details the respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous system effects of airborne coal pollution. In addition, the authors present recent World Health Organization data on human health threats posed by global warming, a relevant topic for inclusion as coal-fired power plants comprise greater than 1/3 of US CO2 emissions.
Five policy recommendations conclude the PSR report:
Coal’s Assault on Human Health is freely available. [Download 3.3MB PDF file from PSR]
January 2010: Mountaintop Mining Consequences
On January 8, twelve US-based researchers published “Mountaintop Mining Consequences” in the Policy Forum section of Science. The authors point out that the “global, 30-year increase in surface mining” has resulted in surface mining being the “dominant driver of land-use change in the central Appalachian ecoregion”.
The authors further indicate that their “analyses of current peer-reviewed studies and of new water-quality data”, has “revealed serious environmental impacts that mitigation practices cannot successfully address”.
The authors also note that “Published health studies also show a high potential for human health impacts”.
Topics addressed in the article include: ecological losses and downstream impacts, potential for human health impacts, mitigation effects, and failure of policy and enforcement.
Policy strategies recommended by the authors of this study:
“Mountaintop Mining Consequences” can be purchased online for US$15 and can be found at library branches subscribing to the journal Science. [Read Abstract and/or Purchase Article Online]