Breathe Free: Protecting Community Health from Toxic Coal Dust

November 30, 2011
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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After exploiting coal reserves in much of the Lower-48, mining companies are turning to Alaska as the next place to strip mine for coal. Strip mining and associated coal industry activities would put salmon streams, air quality, human health, and community well-being at risk. People living near mining operations and along transportation routes may be exposed to and inhale coal dust from surface mining operations, coal processing and cleaning plants, truck and train loading facilities, and storage and export sites. Breathing coal dust has been linked to higher rates of health problems such as cardiopulmonary disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), high blood pressure, lung disease and kidney disease.

CHE-Alaska hosted a discussion with Dr. Michael Hendryx, whose groundbreaking research about the human health impacts of coal dust exposure reveals cause for concern about the proposed Wishbone Hill and Chuitna coal mines in Alaska. We learned about why coal dust is toxic, how people may be exposed and the numerous community health risks associated with coal mining.

Featured Speaker

Dr. Michael Hendryx, Associate Professor in the Department of Community Medicine, West Virginia University. Dr Hendryx is also Director of the West Virginia Rural Health Research Center. Michael earned his PhD in Psychology from Northwestern University in 1986, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Methodology at the University of Chicago. He previously served on the faculty at the University of Iowa, and at Washington State University. His research interests focus on health disparities, particularly for residents of Appalachian coal mining communities. He has published approximately 85 peer reviewed research articles.