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General Mortality Patterns in Appalachian Coal-Mining and Non-Coal-Mining Counties

Buchanich, Jeanine M. MEd, PhD; Balmert, Lauren C. BS; Youk, Ada O. PhD; Woolley, Shannon M. BS; Talbott, Evelyn O. DrPH

Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: November 2014 - Volume 56 - Issue 11 - p 1169–1178
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000245
Original Articles

Objective: To determine whether mortality disparities in Appalachia are due to coal mining or other factors.

Methods: Unadjusted and covariate adjusted rate ratio models calculated total, all external, and all cancer mortality rates from 1960 to 2009 for cumulative total, surface, and underground coal production in coal-mining counties compared with non-coal-mining counties.

Results: No coal-related statistically significant elevations in total or all external mortality were found. Control for covariates attenuated rate ratios for all levels of coal mining. All forms of coal were statistically significant in the adjusted rate ratio models for all cancer mortality, with 4% to 6% excesses in the highest quartiles of production.

Conclusions: Total and all external mortalities do not seem to be related to coal production in Appalachia, but all cancer mortality should be further examined. Additional causes of death should also be considered.

From the Department of Biostatistics (Dr Buchanich, Ms Balmert, Dr Youk, and Ms Woolley) and Department of Epidemiology (Dr Talbott), Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pa.

Address correspondence to: Jeanine M. Buchanich, MEd, PhD, Department of Biostatistics, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, A416 Crabtree Hall, 130 DeSoto St, Pittsburgh, PA 15261 (jeanine@pitt.edu).

This study was sponsored by the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2014 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine