Study Indicates Birth Defects Risk Near Mountains with Coal Mining

Study Indicates Birth Defects Risk Near Mountains with Coal MiningA new study published recently in the journal Environmental Research suggests that birth defects are more likely to be seen in Appalachian counties known for coal mining on mountains than other regions of the U.S.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the study explains that the spike in birth defects could be the result of water and air pollution caused by mountaintop removal coal mining, particularly regarding lead, arsenic and mercury.

Mercury exposure in pregnant women has been linked to nervous system and brain damage as well as learning disabilities, according to the March of Dimes.

"The findings documented in this study contribute to the growing evidence that mountaintop mining is done at substantial expense to the environment, to local economies and to human health," wrote the authors of the report, including professors at West Virginia University.

The study reportedly examined data from nearly 1.9 million births in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia between 1996 and 2003.

"Rates for any anomaly were approximately 235 per 100,000 live births in the mountaintop mining area versus 144 per 100,000 live births in the non-mining area," the authors said.