Researchers compared the prevalence of birth defects in mountaintop removal mining areas, other coal mining areas and non-mining areas in central Appalachia between 1996 and 1999 and between 2000 and 2003.
The overall rate of birth defects in mountaintop removal areas was 13 percent higher between 1996 and 1999, and 42 percent higher in the later period.
"Elevated birth defect rates are partly a function of socioeconomic disadvantage, but remain elevated after controlling for those risks," the authors wrote. "Both socioeconomic and environmental influences in mountaintop mining areas may be contributing factors."
Study co-author Michael Hendryx, a WVU epidemiologist, has said the research is significant not only to coalfield residents, but also to policymakers.
Reach Alison Knezevich at alis...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.