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.

Download full-text


Available from: Nathaniel (Than) P Hitt, Jul 29, 2015
  • Source
    • "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. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Mountaintop mining valley fill (MTM/VF) coal mining is currently the dominant form of land use change in the central Appalachians. MTM/VF activities level mountains, remove forests and forest soils, bury headwater streams and generate substantial amounts of acid and alkaline mine drainage. Numerous case studies have documented elevated concentrations of sulfate and trace metal and metalloids with known toxicity in surface waters downstream from MTM/VF activity, yet no comprehensive effort has been made to link landscape scale mining activity and water quality. Here, I used newly obtained remote sensing data of surface mining activity delineated from 1976 to 2005 to estimate the extent of MTM/VF impact on downstream surface water quality in the Coal and Guyandotte river basins of WV. Hydrologic connectivity between mining and water quality was estimated using an inverse distance weighting technique in GIS (ESRI, Inc.). The findings show significant biogeochemical alterations, including streamwater conductivity and sulfate concentrations, even when small amounts of surface mining (<5%) are observed. Results provide the first comprehensive analysis of the cumulative impact of mining activity in these watersheds on water quality and demonstrate the need for further investigation involving strategic water quality sampling with the ultimate goal of developing an empirical basis on which to form regulations governing MTM/VF throughout the central Appalachians.
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Mountaintop coal mining (MTM) has adverse impacts on surface and ground water quality. Instances of domestic well water contamination from mining activities have been documented, but possible mining impacts on public water treatment systems are unknown. We analyzed the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Information System to examine the number and type of public water treatment violations in West Virginia for the years 2001–2009. Violations were compared between three groups of water treatment facilities: those in counties with mountaintop coal mining (n=161 facilities), coal mining other than mountaintop mining (n=184 facilities), and with no coal mining (n=137 facilities). Adjusting statistically for system size and water source, there were 73.0 violations per system in MTM areas, 16.7 violations per system in other mining areas, and 10.2 violations per system in non-mining areas (F=7.21, df=7,475, p<0.0001). Excess violations in MTM counties were most often related to failure to conduct required sampling for organic compounds. Complete sampling and reporting of public drinking water quality in MTM areas is needed.
    Water Quality Exposure and Health 09/2012; 4(3). DOI:10.1007/s12403-012-0075-x
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Summary only given. Passive microwave observations from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-EOS (AMSR-E) and from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) are used to analyse the evolution of the snow pack in the Ob river basin during the snow season of 2002-03. The Ob river is the biggest Russian river with respect to its watershed area (2975000 km<sup>2</sup>). The Ob originates in the Altai mountains and flows northward across the vast West Siberian lowland towards the Arctic Ocean. The majority of snow cover is contained in the lowlands rather than in mountainous regions and persists for six months or more. During the snow season, surface air temperatures are very cold. Therefore, the combination of cold dry snow and large areas of uniform topography is ideal for snowpack extent and water equivalent retrievals from passive microwave observations. The thermal gradient through the snow pack is estimated and used to model the growth of the snow grain size and to compute the evolution of the passive microwave derived snow depth over the region. A comparison between the AMSR-E and SSM/I estimates is performed and the differences between the snow parameters from the two satellite instruments are analysed.
    Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, 2004. IGARSS '04. Proceedings. 2004 IEEE International; 10/2004
Show more