Michael Hendryx: The shocking danger of mountaintop removal -- and why it must end
Michael Hendryx is focused on the impacts of uneven environmental exposures faced by socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. Full bio
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to conduct an experiment.
to live in blasting zones
going off over their heads.
are used almost daily.
of water contaminated.
you could carefully study
of living in these blasting communities
confounders and covariates.
powerful scientific inquiry
could never be done.
the stomach for it.
would never approve it;
it is happening right now.
populations are in danger?
to be confident of our conclusions?
scientific certainty and the need to act?
that is happening right now
here in the United States.
West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.
have been mined in this way.
and New Hampshire combined.
ancient Appalachian forest,
biodiversity on the planet.
or dumped into adjacent valleys.
up to 800 feet of mountain elevation.
in West Virginia alone.
is dumped over the valley sides
have been destroyed.
have been permanently buried.
of the valley fills is highly contaminated
transported to power plants and burned.
of gallons of water with metals,
and other impurities.
of US electricity demand --
of US electricity demand.
all sorts of other questions.
of mountaintop-removal mining?
who live in counties where MTR takes place
of industry and government
obligation of science
at West Virginia University.
any research related to coal.
in these mining communities.
they drank was not clean,
about their own illnesses
cancer was in their neighborhoods.
in southern West Virginia
and hear their concerns.
that nothing had been published
of coal mining in the United States.
on the public health effects
a new contribution,
or to alleviate them."
or organizational agenda.
initially were skeptical
between public health and mining.
could be explained by poverty
like smoking and obesity.
maybe they would be right.
population health to mining activity
race, smoking, obesity, poverty,
and others we could measure.
the concerns of the residents,
where mountaintop removal takes place
of cardiovascular disease,
lung disease like COPD.
are significantly elevated,
for higher rates of birth defects
equates to about 1,200 excess deaths
controlling for other risks.
as the levels of mining go up
community door-to-door health surveys.
living within a few miles of MTR
communities without mining.
of personal and family illness,
a broad spectrum are more common.
does not prove causation.
in mining communities.
and report on that.
of public drinking-water standards
in MTR areas versus non-mining areas.
is elevated in mining communities,
contains a complex mixture,
a known lung carcinogen,
cardiovascular dysfunction in rats.
in vitro lung cells.
of some of our studies.
what we have to say.
in coal country.
paid for research
has tried to do the same
claiming that MTR is safe.
under the Freedom of Information Act,
at a Congressional hearing
with ties to the energy industry.
that he refuses to read the research.
with a member of Congress,
shared my research,
they knew nothing about it.
at the US Geological Survey
for more than two years.
to publish their findings,
by their superiors
the National Academy of Sciences
by the federal government
of surface mining.
motivated, in my view.
from researchers, too.
they express skepticism.
as scientists, to be skeptical.
this possible explanation?"
that alternative interpretation?"
some confounder that we missed.
we haven't accounted for."
effects would be found in people?"
that they could be right,
of some unmeasured confound.
from blowing up mountains
if doubt is what you seek.
must always be associational.
why I've started to wonder,
on this topic so far.
have added to the evidence,
it's only correlational.
have lifestyle issues.
or poverty or education
where we don't need more research,
to be unwilling research subjects
the data wherever it goes,
as thinking, feeling human beings,
but for other situations
and concerning but imperfect.
means people's lives.
that there is any controversy
of mountaintop-removal mining.
and political twilight zone
smoking caused cancer.
seems to point to one conclusion.
or the prevailing public view
and you think you have a valid insight
of entire populations is at stake
of denial and disbelief,
for telling the truth as they see it,
to stand up for the data.
to wait around for public opinion
to the scientific understanding.
and the more frustrating the debate,
to preserve our objectivity
is the most powerful tool that we have,
on the part of scientists,
will ever convince people
our reputation for integrity,
and keep doing the studies
the results to the public,
does and will win out.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERMichael Hendryx - Research investigator
Michael Hendryx is focused on the impacts of uneven environmental exposures faced by socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.
Why you should listen
In 2006, Michael Hendryx started a research program on public health disparities for people in Appalachia who live in proximity to coal mining, with a focus on mountaintop removal. This research has shown that people who live close to mountaintop removal are at increased risk for a wide set of health problems including respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, birth defects, cancer and more. Hendryx has published more than peer-reviewed research papers and has been an investigator on numerous grants and contracts. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Indiana University Bloomington’s School of Public Health.
Michael Hendryx | Speaker | TED.com