Comparison of Particle Size Distribution and Concentration Between MTR and non-MTR Areas in West Virginia

The Late Larry Gibson stood in front of the Mountain Top Removal Mine that surrounds his property. Coincidentally to this report, Larry died of a heart attack at age 65 recently in September 2012.

LAURA ESCH, Stephanie Lusk, Michael Hendryx, Michael McCawley

West Virginia University

Abstract Number: 782
Last modified: July 22, 2011

Working Group: Health Related Aerosols
Abstract
People who live in southwest West Virginia where coal mining is prominent have increased health problems compared to people in non-mining areas. Recent studies show that residents of coal mining areas have significantly higher mortality from chronic heart, respiratory, and kidney diseases and lung cancer and have elevated morbidity from chronic cardiopulmonary, cardiovascular, and kidney diseases compared to non-mining areas. Mountain top removal mining (MTR) areas have increased rates of birth defects and chronic cardiovascular disease mortality, and lower health-related quality of life, compared to other coal mining areas. It is hypothesized that health disparities are partly due to pollution from MTR activities with routes of particle exposure through either inhalation or ingestion.

Brief sampling (24-35 hours) was conducted in June, 2011 with an APS, SMPS, Dust Trak Aerosol Monitor, and gravimetric filter analysis at six sites with MTR mining activities and three sites in eastern West Virginia without mining activity. Size distributions were integrated with respect to regional lung deposition curves to estimate regional lung deposition at each site.

Much of the PM was either >20um or <.5um. This resulted in a statistically significant difference in deposited dose, with most MTR sites having a significantly higher deposited fraction and number concentration. One MTR valley had consistently higher deposited dose, and this valley had the most mining activity during sampling and has high reported pediatric asthma rates. Mass concentration was also significantly greater among MTR areas.

These preliminary findings, along with continued sampling, fill in gaps in the chain of causation by associating exposure and disease directly rather than ecologically, as has been done by previous research.

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