Babies born in areas with mountaintop-removal mining have higher rates of birth defects — we know that from a study that came out last month. But, say coal companies, that doesn't mean the mining CAUSES the birth defects! They could easily be caused by something else — like, say, rampant inbreeding.

A letter from law firm Crowell & Moring, representing the National Mining Association, rebutted the study's findings by saying they failed to account for "consanquinity." That is not a thing, but "consanguinity" is inbreeding. And inbreeding is a nasty (and false) rumor about West Virginia, where a lot of mountaintop-removal mining takes place. 

A Crowell & Moring spokesperson told Ken Ward, Jr. the West Virginia blogger who first noticed the epic foot-mouthing, that they hadn't meant anything by it: "Consanguinity is one of a number of commonly addressed issues in studies of this type, regardless of geography … We did not raise this issue with particular reference to any region, and we did not mean to imply any such thing." This is basically like complaining that a study about public health in San Francisco forgot to figure in unbridled unprotected drug-fueled gay sex, and then claiming you weren't influenced by crappy stereotypes. "It was just the first thing that came into our heads, honest!"

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