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: 2.45). 04/2010; 7(1):91-104. DOI: 10.1007/s10393-010-0297-y
Source: PubMed


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
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    • "This approach takes advantage of the complementary strengths of field surveys, analytical chemistry, and in-laboratory analysis of the toxicity of field-collected samples [4]. Field surveys of the environmental effects of MTR/VF on stream ecology and benthic invertebrate communities are emerging [5-7], and surface mining has also been linked to negative impacts on human health [8,9]. Analytical chemistry approaches have documented high levels of inorganic solutes in waters and sediments downstream from MTR/VF sites [3,5,10,11]. "
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    • "In European countries, there were an estimated 0.91 million new cases of digestive system cancers (436,000 CRC and 149,000 GC) and 0.59 million deaths from these health care problems in 2008 [3]. In the majority of developing countries, the upward trends of mortality rates for digestive system cancers also have been observed [4], [5]. "
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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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