Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Coalfield Health Hazards

Lincoln Walks At Midnight: A just-the-facts approach to politics and government in the Mountain State recently reported this interesting public health article: Coalfield Living: a Health Hazard? The blog points to several newspaper articles, as well as the original scholarly publication.

[Michael] Hendryx, associate director of the WVU Institute for Health Policy Research in the university's community medicine department, is co-author of four new articles examining coal's possible impacts on public health in Appalachia.

The studies found more lung cancer deaths, overall hospitalizations and overall deaths in coal-producing counties compared to other parts of the region and to the nation as a whole....

That study, being published in next month's issue of the American Journal of Public Health, used data from a 2001 phone survey of nearly 16,500 West Virginians. Hendryx and Washington State University researcher Melissa Ahern compared the results to coal production figures, U.S. Census data and Department of Health and Human Resources information.

As coal production in counties increases, they found, so does the incidence of chronic illness.

Residents in major coal counties had a 70 percent increased risk of kidney disease and a 64 percent increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease such as emphysema, the study found. Coal county residents were also 30 percent more likely to report high blood pressure.

Hendryx and Ahern tried to isolate coal's potential impacts by factoring out the influence of other possible causes, such as smoking, obesity and age.

"We've adjusted our data to include those factors, and still found disease rates higher in coal-mining communities," Hendryx said.

No comments: