Date of Graduation
School of Public Health
Introduction: Mortality and morbidity rates in the Appalachian region are higher than in the national population. People who live in Appalachian areas where coal mining is prominent have increased health problems compared to people in non-mining areas of Appalachia. Health disparities remain higher in mining areas even after adjusting for lifestyle and demographic effects illustrating that additional factors, such as environmental influences, are associated with adverse health outcomes. Coal mines and coal mining activities result in the production of atmospheric particulate matter (PM), which is associated with environmental and human health effects. Environmental studies of air and water quality in southwest West Virginia provide evidence of air contamination and surface and ground water contamination around coal mining areas, including mountaintop mining (MTM) sites. However, there is a gap in research regarding characterization of PM around MTM areas and the health effects from PM in MTM areas. The objective of this project was to assess the potential health hazard of PM by characterizing atmospheric PM in coal and non-mining areas to identify PM elemental composition, concentration, size distribution to determine inhaled deposited dose, and environmental dry deposition.;Methods/Results: In the first study, particle size distribution and concentration data were collected to calculate deposited lung dose at MTM and non-mining sites. This study was divided into two parts to examine variability in particle size distribution and concentration measurements within sampling areas and seasonal variability within and between MTM and non-mining sites was evaluated. Particle number concentrations and deposited lung dose were elevated around the MTM sites demonstrating elevated risk to humans. In the second study, a primary analysis of semi-quantitative data was conducted to identify the most abundant elements contributing to coarse PM at MTM and non-mining sites. Crustal elements dominated all samples and MTM sites had elevated siliceous materials and the non-mining PM was primarily from combustion sources. The final study quantified environmental dry deposition for inorganic materials at mining and non-mining sites. Results from this study revealed the mining sites contained elevated flux estimates and elevated concentrations of crustal and anthropogenic inorganic materials.;Conclusions: Atmospheric PM at the MTM areas in this study pose an increased hazard to human health due to elevated dose to human lungs, particle count, and chemical composition. This research extends exposure assessment literature by directly estimating the inhaled dose and concentration of particles that residents of high disease rate areas receive. Furthermore, threats to the environment were noted due to elevated dry environmental deposition flux estimates for elements in PM depositing in the environment around mining areas. Our findings demonstrate the need to address air quality issues and regulate mining-related sources of PM in MTM areas to decrease health disparities in the Appalachian coal mining areas.
Kurth, Laura M., "Characterization of Atmospheric Particulate Matter in Mountaintop Mining and Non-mining Areas in West Virginia with Known Health Differences" (2013). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 510.