Well, this is very surprising.* From Australian Broadcasting Company:

The study of international evidence showed increased rates of cancer, heart, lung and kidney disease, as well as birth defects, in communities near coal mines and coal-fired power stations.

The researchers analysed 50 studies from 10 countries, including the US, the UK and China.

West Virginia coal town, 1974.
Library of Congress

The full study [PDF] articulates the health effects of coal pollution more clearly, by analyzing reports from coal communities around the world.

Adults in coal mining communities have been found to have:

  • Higher rates of mortality from lung cancer, chronic heart, respiratory and kidney diseases
  • Higher rates of cardiopulmonary disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung diseases, hypertension, kidney disease, heart attack and stroke, and asthma
  • Increased probability of a hospitalisation for COPD (by 1% for each 1,462 tons of coal mined), and for hypertension (by 1% for each 1,873 tons of coal mined).
  • Poorer self‐rated health and reduced quality of life

Children and infants in coal mining communities have been found to have:

  • Increased respiratory symptoms including wheeze, cough and absence from school with respiratory symptoms although not all studies reported this effect
  • High blood levels of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium
  • Higher incidence of neural tube deficits, a high prevalence of any birth defect, and a greater chance of being of low birth weight (a risk factor for future obesity, diabetes and heart disease)

Adults (and whole population) in communities near coal‐fired power stations and coal combustion facilities have been found to have:

  • Increased risk of death from lung, laryngeal and bladder cancer
  • Increased risk of skin cancer (other than melanoma)
  • Increased asthma rates and respiratory symptoms

Children, infants, and fetal outcomes in communities near coal‐fired power stations and coal combustion facilities have been found to have

  • Oxidative deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage
  • Higher rates of preterm birth, low birth weight, miscarriages and stillbirths
  • Impaired fetal and child growth and neurological development
  • Increased asthma rates and respiratory symptoms.

This is a summary of the findings from just the first part of the analysis. For those curious, the author notes that studies were excluded if coal mining or combustion wasn’t the source of the air pollution.

Upon hearing the news, American coal companies quickly moved to shutter their mines and encourage their customers to switch to different energy sources. “Coal has already done too much damage,” said one CEO. “We are ashamed that we put our profits above the needs of the community.” One mine near Mechanicsburg has scheduled a 3 p.m. drum circle to raise awareness. *

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