Heightened rates of mortality and disease afflict coal communities

A new report published in Australia has found that coal mining communities around the world suffer from elevated levels of death, disease and birth defects.

The report examined 50 studies from 10 countries, including the USA, UK and China, and determined that people living near coal mines or coal power stations suffer from increased levels of cancer and respiratory problems as well as higher mortality rates.

One of the report's chief authors, Associate Professor Ruth Colagiuri from the University of Sydney, told ABC that some of health problems which proximity to coal production and usage are believed to produce include "excess deaths, respiratory problems, heart problems, bladder and kidney cancer in some cases, a number of different cancers, skin cancer."

The publication of the report in leading coal exporter Australia has triggered calls for studies on health outcomes in the country's mining communities due to a lack of up-to-date local data. Experts have expressed especial concern as the study's findings involved OECD countries such as the USA and UK, whose mining methodologies are similar to those employed in Australia.

The NSW Minerals Council claims the report is tendentious, however, as it was commissioned by the Beyond Zero Emissions , a non-profit organization which campaigns against climate change.

The Council claims the findings of the report are being misrepresented in order to prevent mining in New South Wales' coal rich Hunter Valley Region.

Colagiuri has defended the impartiality of the study's findings, stating that despite receiving funding from Beyond Zero Emissions the group had "absolutely" no influence on the research.