A West Virginia University toxicologist said a new National Academy of Sciences study is an important step toward filling in research gaps about surface coal mining and potential health risks.

Michael McCawley, a longtime researcher with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and interim chair of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences in the WVU School of Public Health, is available to comment on the announcement of the project.

The two-year study – requested by the state of West Virginia – will look at existing research about health problems linked to living near surface coal mine sites in central Appalachia. The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is funding the $1 million project, bringing experts together from higher education, state government, industry and other nongovernmental organizations to make suggestions for further study.

“We have previously published peer-reviewed articles on findings concerning the association between increased ambient ultrafine particle (particles less than 0.1 micrometers in size) concentrations and increased rates of disease in areas where mountaintop removal activities occurred.” said McCawley, an expert on miners’ health issues, air quality and community assessment for environmental issues.

McCawley has widely spoken out on the dangers of ultrafine dust and other industrial operations. He is currently consulting on a National Toxicology Program study also reviewing the published scientific literature on mountaintop removal activities.

He can be reached at 304-282-4470 or mamccawley@hsc.wvu.edu

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.