Coal Mining And Mortality

Mortality in Appalachian Coal Mining Regions: The Value of Statistical Life Lost

Michael Hendryx and Melissa M. Ahern

Public Health Reports, 2009

 

Keywords:  Coal mining, mortality

Purpose:  The authors examined mortality rates in Appalachian coal mining areas (1979-2005) and estimated the value of statistical life lost in relation to the economic benefits of the coal mining industry.

Important Findings:  An analysis of the value of statistical life lost showed that the costs associated with coal mining in Appalachia continue to exceed the economic benefits gained from mining.  The authors found that mortality rates in coal mining areas of Appalachia are consistently higher when compared with the rest of the nation.

Significant Quotes:  “In response to this and other research showing the disadvantages of poor economic diversification, it seems prudent to examine how more diverse employment opportunities for the region should be developed as a means to reduce socioeconomic and environmental disparities and thereby improve public health.”

“Tighter pollution emission standards, carbon tax, cap-and-trade, and carbon sequestration proposals, even if effective, will only address how coal is burned.  Such proposals ignore how coal is extracted, processed, and transported prior to burning.  These preconsumption processes carry their own significant economic, environmental, and health costs.”

Results:  The authors found that age-adjusted mortality rates were higher every year from 1979 – 2005 in Appalachian coal mining areas compared with other areas of Appalachia or the nation. Illnesses seen in coal mining areas of Appalachia “are consistent with a hypothesis of exposure to water and air pollution from mining activities.”  After adjusting for covariates, the authors found that the number of excess annual deaths in mining areas ranged from 1,736 to 2,889.

 

Hendryx, M. (2009) "Mortality in Appalachian Coal Mining Regions: The Value of Statistical Life Lost.” Public Health Reports. 124 (2009): 541-50