An examination of the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining on respiratory symptoms and COPD using propensity scores
Previous research on public health consequences of mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining has been limited by the observational nature of the data. The current study used propensity scores, a method designed to overcome this limitation, to draw more confident causal inferences about mining effects on respiratory health using non-experimental data. These data come from a health survey of 682 adults residing in two rural areas of Virginia, USA characterized by the presence or absence of MTR mining. Persons with a history of occupational exposure as coal miners were excluded. Nine covariates including age, sex, current and former smoking, overweight, obesity, high school education, college education, and exposure to coal as a home-heating source were selected to estimate propensity scores. Propensity scores were tested for balance and then used as weights to create quasi-experimental exposed and unexposed groups. Results indicated that persons in the mountaintop mining group had significantly (p < 0.0001) elevated prevalence of respiratory symptoms and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The results suggest that impaired respiratory health results from exposure to MTR environments and not from other risks.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: Applied Health Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA 2: Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA
Publication date: May 4, 2015