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New Study Links Birth Defects To Mountaintop Removal Mining

By Erica Peterson - Kentucky Public Radio


Louisville, KY – A new study says babies born in counties where mountaintop removal mining is done may be more likely to suffer birth defects than babies born in counties with other types of coal mining. As Kentucky Public Radio's Erica Peterson reports, the study was published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research.

According to the study, babies born in counties in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee where mountaintop removal mines were in operation had a twenty-six percent higher risk of suffering from some kind of birth defect. That's compared to babies born in counties where there is no coal mining. The babies were also more likely to have birth defects than those born in counties where coal is mined other ways.

Melissa Ahern is a professor at Washington State University, and the lead author of the study. She says she relied on data of babies born between 1996 and 2003.

"There were even higher birth defect prevalence rates in the recent period. Which means as mountaintop mining has increased, it appears that increase is associated with higher birth defect rates."

Ahern said the researchers were able to control for factors like smoking and drinking while pregnant.