Ecological Integrity of Streams Related to Human Cancer Mortality Rates

Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA.
EcoHealth (Impact Factor: 2.27). 04/2010; 7(1):91-104. DOI: 10.1007/s10393-010-0297-y
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Assessments of ecological integrity have become commonplace for biological conservation, but their role for public health analysis remains largely unexplored. We tested the prediction that the ecological integrity of streams would provide an indicator of human cancer mortality rates in West Virginia, USA. We characterized ecological integrity using an index of benthic macroinvertebrate community structure (West Virginia Stream Condition Index, SCI) and quantified human cancer mortality rates using county-level data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Regression and spatial analyses revealed significant associations between ecological integrity and public health. SCI was negatively related to age-adjusted total cancer mortality per 100,000 people. Respiratory, digestive, urinary, and breast cancer rates increased with ecological disintegrity, but genital and oral cancer rates did not. Smoking, poverty, and urbanization were significantly related to total cancer mortality, but did not explain the observed relationships between ecological integrity and cancer. Coal mining was significantly associated with ecological disintegrity and higher cancer mortality. Spatial analyses also revealed cancer clusters that corresponded to areas of high coal mining intensity. Our results demonstrated significant relationships between ecological integrity and human cancer mortality in West Virginia, and suggested important effects of coal mining on ecological communities and public health. Assessments of ecological integrity therefore may contribute not only to monitoring goals for aquatic life, but also may provide valuable insights for human health and safety.

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Available from: Nathaniel (Than) P Hitt, Aug 24, 2015
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    • "Despite these prospects, the definition of ecological integrity, as adopted by Parks Canada and Ontario Parks, including what exactly constitutes " acceptable rates of change " and species " characteristic of a natural region " , should be modified to account for climate change impacts (Scott and Lemieux, 2005). On the social front, recent studies have demonstrated significant relationships between ecological integrity and human health (e.g., Hitt and Hendryx, 2010), and assessments of ecological integrity therefore may contribute not only to monitoring goals for terrestrial , marine, and freshwater ecosystems in protected areas, but also may provide valuable insights for human health and safety. While assessments of ecological integrity have become commonplace for biological conservation, their role in climate change and public health analysis in a protected areas context remains largely unexplored in Canada. "
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    • "In the same streams, macroinvertebrate communities tend to become dominated by more pollution tolerant taxa and to lose sensitive species with higher concentrations of SO 4 2-(Palmer et al. 2010). Stream health metrics derived from this macroinvertebrate community composition data (the WV Stream Condition Index, WVSCI) have recently been shown to be an important correlate of incidences of a variety of human cancer cases in WV (Hitt & Hendryx 2010). Not only do these relationships support the use of SO 4 2-as an indicator of the extent of current mining activity in watersheds, but elevated SO 4 2-loading to streamwaters has been shown to persist long after mining activity ceases (Sams & Beer 2000), suggesting that SO 4 2-concentrations serve as an indicator of both past and present mining activity. "
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