Coal Health Study Blog


Dr. van Steenis Speaks: Unedited Footage

MP3 UPLOAD – Dr Van Steenis Speaks to Douglas

SLIDESHOW – Audio and Some Photos, No Video – Doctor van Steenis speaks to Douglas

FULL VIDEO – Dr Dick van Steenis speaks to Douglas community

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Photo & Video Credit: Nicholas Roberts

The St Bride Centre was packed this past Wednesday, 23 September, with around 100 attendees. Among the attendees were 3 doctors, in addition to Dr. Dick van Steenis himself.

The Sunday Herald published an article on Dr. van Steenis’ lecture that has gone to press today: Opencast mines will lead to public health disaster, warns poison expert

Early on in his lecture, Dr. van Steenis cited examples of ill-health arising from pollution, and in the case where such ill-health effects are denied, he decried corruption in the field of public health in the UK. Dr. van Steenis also disputed the veracity of environmental reports issued by consultancy companies in the employ of coal companies.

Later on in his lecture, Dr. van Steenis described the mechanisms whereby particulate matter less than approximately 3 microns (a micron is a millionth of meter) causes inflammation and damage in the lungs, and leads to the development of cardiopulmonary disease and other disorders.

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Public Event: Doctor van Steenis Speaks

The esteemed Doctor Dick van Steenis will be giving a public lecture next week concerning the health effects of open-cast coal extraction operations.   This is a rare opportunity to benefit from his 14 years of accumulated expertise on this particular subject.

Who:  Doctor Dick van Steenis
Where:  St. Bride Centre, Douglas, South Lanarkshire, Scotland
When:  Wednesday 23 September, 7:00PM

For those who many not be familiar with Doctor van Steenis’ efforts, he is renown for investigating matters of public health in circumstances where the levers of corporate and/or political power may be positioned against the interests of the people whose health is in question.  Over the past 15 years, Dr. van Steenis has researched the health effects of such particulate-generating operations as power stations, rubbish incinerators, and open-cast coal mines.  His work has been noted by Monbiot of the UK Guardian as early as 1999 (see http://www.monbiot.com/archives/1999/06/20/poisoning-the-poor/ ):

Dr Dick van Steenis is a retired GP who, in 1994, was asked to look at the possible health effects of pollution from power stations in South Wales. He struck upon the simple device of mapping the use of asthma inhalers by primary school children. He was astonished to discover that, before long, he was able to predict the number of asthma patients to within one or two per cent, simply by measuring how far they lived from the nearest major source of pollution. In some villages, he found as many as 38 per cent of four and five year olds using inhalers.

On Wednesday’s lecture, Dr. van Steenis will discuss his findings regarding the ill-health effects of open-cast coal mines.  Given his extensive investigations into this topic, and given how pressing the matter is to the residents of Douglasdale and other  communities above Scotland’s extensive coal seams, we ask the public to restrict their questions to the subject at hand.  If enough interest in other topics is noted, the good Doctor will be lobbied for another speaking date.

Dr. van Steenis’ lecture will be recorded, published online, and made available by DVD for those without access to broadband internet.  Those who have questions they would like to ask of Dr. van Steenis, but who are unable to attend, are invited to post their questions in the comment section of this blog post, or to email their questions here to coalhealthstudy@gmail.com — feel free to include your email and phone so that the organizers may contact you.

Time permitting, the organizers will attempt to incorporate your questions in front of the audience, but if that’s not possible will make every effort to interview Dr. van Steenis with your questions and publish the interview online and to the DVD.

New Release: Coal Health Study, Douglasdale Edition

Douglasdale Edition of the Coal Health Study

An extended version of the Coal Health Study has been prepared for use by Douglasdale residents, and some 1400 copies have been locally generated and distributed in anticipation of Doctor van Steenis’ upcoming lecture.  This Douglasdale edition of the Coal Health Study is available for download here:

New:  Douglasdale Edition of the Coal Health Study, 11 Sep. 2009 [PDF, 1MB]

The Douglasdale edition contains several additions, including a striking table of NHS health indicators disaggregated by postcode, and a more thorough literature review that incorporates relevant studies published in Europe, the United Kingdom, India, and the United States.

Of the 16 peer-reviewed studies cited in the Douglasdale edition, 12 examine the incidence of and/or mortality from disease in populations living near open-cast coal mining operations, 2 quantify the quantity and characteristics of the dust emitted, 1 demonstrates that COPD is a precursor to lung cancer irrespective of smoking history, and 1 explains the mechanism whereby pollutants act to damage lung tissue.

Assessing Particulate Pollution near Open-cast Extraction Operations

Open-cast coal extraction involves the lofting of particulates generated by mechanical disruption of the earth’s crust by drilling and transport, as well as the lofting of particulates generated by the combustion of extremely large quantities of low-quality diesel fuel.

Both types of open-cast particulates require further study in order to assess (1) their densities (density in this case refers to the quantity of particulate mass per cubic volume of air), (2) the distribution of particle sizes generated, and (3) the atmospheric lifetimes of all sizes of particulates present.

A further complicating factor is that after their initial generation and settling to the earth’s surface,  particulates appear to be continually re-lofted by passing coal transport lorries and by regular vehicular traffic on local roads.  This re-lofting extends the atmospheric lifetime and cycling of particulates in a manner that cannot be described by atmospheric physics alone, but can be assessed by monitoring particulate densities and size distributions in local villages.

Absolute and Relative Rates of Douglasdale COPD Incidence

To reduce printing costs, the new Douglasdale edition does not contain every graph that reinforces the conclusions of the preliminary Coal Health Study.   The figure below illustrates the absolute rates of COPD at the four sites examined in the Coal Health Study:  Dalmellington, formerly the site of 10 operational open-cast coal mines, Douglasdale, currently the site of 3 operational open-cast coal mines, Prestwick, a nearby seaside town, and the UK.

Number of cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease diagnosed at two open-cast coal mining sites and at two control sites.

Number of cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease diagnosed at two open-cast coal mining sites and at two control sites.

In Dalmellington, the COPD incidence is unusually high, at 7.6%, which is 5 times the UK average of 1.5%.  The Douglasdale incidence values are currently 2.4 times the UK average.

Normalized cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease diagnosed at two open-cast coal mining sites and at two control sites.  Normalization was performed by dividing each yearly incidence value at a site by the 2004-5 incidence value.  This is done for purposes of comparison, to see what incidence would like like if all sites began at the same COPD incidence.

Normalized cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease diagnosed at two open-cast coal mining sites and at two control sites. Normalization was performed by dividing each yearly incidence value at a site by the 2004-5 incidence value. This is done for purposes of comparison, to see what incidence would like like if all sites began at the same COPD incidence.

This figure demonstrates that the rate of COPD is increasing much faster at Douglasdale than at any other site considered, up 63% from 2005, concurrent with the increasing extent of open-cast coal mining activities in the area.   At the current trajectory of the Douglasdale curve, Douglasdale would attain the value of absolute Dalmellington COPD incidence in 6 or 7 years.

Coal Health Study, Final Scottish Climate Camp Version

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Photo Credit:  Lindsay Addison

There has been no commissioned research into the effects of open-cast coal mining on the health of Douglasdale (South Lanarkshire, Scotland) residents.  Globally, no research has yet been undertaken on the health effects of open-cast coal-mining operations which span such large spatial extents and decades-long time scale as those pending for the Douglasdale area of Scotland.

During the Scottish Camp for Climate Action at the Mainshill Solidarity Camp in Douglas Scotland 2009, Kirstie Stramler PhD, working under the auspices of Indymedia UK, performed a preliminary analysis on publicly available data.

The study revealed striking ill-health in people who reside near the Douglas and Dalmellington open-cast coal mines, as compared with aggregated UK health statistics and with a nearby Scottish village upwind from the mines.

The final version of the study from the Independent media tent at the Scottish Camp for Climate Action at the Mainshill Solidarity Camp can only be found here:

As these freely available government health statistics (see QOF and NHS databases) revealed shocking correlations between the operation of multiple open-cast coal mines and the negative effects on the health of the local population, this report has shed new light on the imperative to assess the heretofore neglected community health impacts of coal extraction activities occurring on the spatial scale of the South Lanarkshire area of Scotland.

This Scottish Climate Camp version of the Douglasdale report is finished.  There will be no more Climate Camp Indymedia versions issued by Kirstie Stramler.  The authoritative PDF version can only be found at the link above — any other versions are incomplete or are unauthorized.

A new, extended version will be compiled under the auspices of another organization.   Address questions or comments on the report to Dr. Kirstie Stramler at coalhealthstudy@gmail.com .


Adverse Effects of Open-cast Coal Mining, 11 Aug. 2009