Recent news reports contained stories about two new papers on the possible effects of particulates generated by “mountaintop” mines in central Appalachia. One story discussed a paper which compared the effects of particulates within a mile of a southern WV mine with the effects of particulates from a non-mining area. The authors found that mining-related particulates “did not indicate tumor initiation” but did contribute to tumor progression more than did non-mining dust. The authors determined that the two largest components of the mining dust were silica and molybdenum, and they exposed cells to those individual substances as well. The molybdenum, but not the silica, apparently also promoted tumor progression. The paper, coauthored by Michael Hendryx, is available at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/es504263u.
A layman’s read of the paper raises one issue, though. The authors contend that the contents of the particulate near the mines were, by weight, 28% molybdenum. In prior papers by some of the same authors, molybdenum is not mentioned at all. Instead, there the authors noted the dominance of things such as silica and sulfur, along with the presence of other substances such as aluminum and iron. It will be interesting to review the underlying data to see how they analyzed the contents of the particulate.
A second announcement, released by the Coal River Mountain Watch (“CRMW”), claims that scientists with the USGS have submitted a paper on their work to a journal for publication. According to the CRMW, that paper concludes that communities near mines have elevated levels of particulates compared to non-mining communities. This work appears to stem from airborne dust monitoring and speciation that the USGS reportedly conducted several years ago in southern West Virginia and which may have been discussed in a paper released this summer entitled “Atmospheric particulate matter size distribution and concentration in West Virginia coal mining and non-mining areas.” A news story from July of 2014 indicated that the USGS had abandoned this work in late 2013.
Another recent article confirmed that one of the principal USGS investigators into the possible health effects of surface mining had left his mining work behind and started work on the dangers of air emissions from waste ponds associated with the gas industry in West Virginia.
The release from the CRMW, apparently made in advance of publication of the article by USGS personnel, suggests that advance copies of the material have been deliberately provided to anti-mining groups in an effort to pressure the administration to re-fund USGS investigations into the potential health effects of mining. Both the CRMW and OVEC are actively campaigning to have the Administration continue studies into the health effects of surface mining.
This article was authored by Robert G. McLusky, Jackson Kelly PLLC. For more information on the author, click here.