Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Human Cost of Coal

Last year, about 42% of the electricity produced in the US was from coal. In Appalachia, the predominant method for coal mining is "mountain top removal", which is as environmentally devastating as it sounds. According to, "from 2007 to the present, 21 peer-reviewed scientific studies have proven the negative impacts that coal mining has on the economy, ecology and human health in Central Appalachia. The evidence is overwhelming. Coal mining has damaging effects on the ecosystem — and human lives."

Here are the key facts from the above website: 

  • people living near mountaintop mining have cancer rates of 14.4% compared to 9.4% for people elsewhere in Appalachia
  • the rate of children born with birth defects is 42% higher in mountaintop removal mining areas
  • the public health costs of pollution from coal operations in Appalachia amount to a staggering $75 billion a year

They have also prepared a terrific interactive map where you can see how life expectancy has changed (see below), the increase in the number of birth defects per county, the increase in incidence of lung cancer and so on. You can also see the staggering number of mountains that have been subjected to mountain top removal. The motto for the website is "what we do to the land, we do to the people."
Perhaps it's time more of us paid attention. Perhaps it's time we also started talking about reducing energy consumption. 

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