Linkages Between Cancer And Coal Mining

A Geographical Information System-Based Analysis of Cancer Mortality and Population Exposure to Coal Mining Activities in West Virginia

Michael Hendryx, Evan Fedorko, Andrew Anesetti-Rotherme

Geospatial Health, 2010

Keywords:  Mining, coal, cancer, mortality, geographical information system, West Virginia.

Purpose:  The purpose of this study is to use geographic information systems (GIS) to develop and test a more refined measure of population exposure to pollution from coal mining.  Previous research used the tons mined per county to investigate the associations between cancer mortality and coal mining.   This new measure looks at the distance of populations to components of the coal mining industry such as mines, processing plants, slurry impoundments, and underground slurry injections. 

Important Finding:  Using two geographical information system (GIS) techniques, the authors find total, respiratory, and “other” cancer mortality rates are more highly associated with the activities of the coal industry with the new distance-weighted measure.

Results:  All four components of the mining industry (injection sites, preparation plants, impoundment ponds and mines) were found to be related to one or more cancer types.  The injection sites were the least correlated and the mines were the most strongly correlated.  The pattern for respiratory and total cancer were the most clear even after controlling for smoking.  The results add to the body of evidence that coal mining poses environmental risks to residents of coal mining communities in West Virginia. 

 

Hendryx, M., E. Fedorko, and A. Anesetti-Rotherme.  (2010) “A Geographical Information System-Based Analysis of Cancer Mortality and Population Exposure to Coal Mining Activities in West Virginia.”  Geospatial Health 4(2), 2010