Mining-Linked Birth Defects: Coal Industry Blames ... Inbreeding

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A few weeks ago, we posted about a new study linking mountaintop removal coal mining with increased incidence of birth defects.  The study by researchers at West Virginia University examined two million health records in Appalachia and concluded that kids born near mountaintop mining operations suffered higher rates of a variety of central nervous system, musculoskeletal, urogenital and circulatory and respiratory problems.

Well, over at Coal Tattoo, Ken Ward Jr. unearthed an internet posting from a group of coal industry lawyers that attempts to discredit the study by charging that researchers left out a very important cause of birth defects in Appalachia: consanguinity.  Which is a fancy term for inbreeding.

Think about this for a moment. 

From the industry's point of view, the problem is not that coal companies blast the top off mountains, turning the area into a moonscape and polluting the air and releasing toxic chemical into what's left of the local streams and aquifers.  It's that the people who live near the mines are too cozy with their cousins. 

After Ward called attention to the posting, the law firm quickly pulled it and apologized.  Which I'm sure was very sincere.  But Ward – excellent reporter that he is – preserved a copy of the original posting, which you can read below:

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