“What is the ethical obligation of the scientist who believes populations are in danger?” That was the question that professor Michael Hendryx asked himself when he began to uncover the detrimental health effects of mountain top removal in Appalachia.
In 2006, Dr. Hendryx, Professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Indiana University Bloomington’s School of Public Health, 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.
Mountaintop removal mining—the practice of blowing off the tops of mountains in order to access coal with lower sulfur content—holds fewer health risks for miners, but the health implications for people living in close proximity to mountaintop removal mining locations have long been known, and even disputed.
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 others.
Despite the clear findings, his research met strong opposition from the coal industry and from local coal country governments, who didn’t want his findings to be shared.
Undaunted, Dr. Hendryx shares his findings in a TEDMED Talk and discusses how he’s working to publicize the plight of Appalachians living near mountaintop removal sites and to robustly address the serious public health consequences of coal mining.
Watch the talk here: