This is the first of several posts on the impact of fossil fuels on air quality and health.

To begin, here is an overview of local issues from Massey University, including the New Zealand index of Social Deprivation.

It should come as no surprise that the Buller coal-mining region is one of the most deprived in the country.

For the big picture, here is a seminal paper from the US on the overall cost to communities of mining, transporting, and burning coal.

NB: Coal prices have collapsed since this paper was published in 2011.  If the costs outweighed the benefits then, the balance must be far worse today.

Here are some useful links from OraTaiao, the New Zealand Climate and Health Council:

Fossil fuels, Climate Change and Health;

The 2017 Royal Society report Human Health Impacts of Climate Change for NZ has a section on outdoor air quality;

More recently, here is a 2019 Lancet report on climate change and health and a 2019 review of air pollution and health from the American College of Chest Physicians.

For those who want to go deeper, there is a large body of relevant scientific evidence from the Appalachian coalfields in the US, where coal is mined by much the same methods, and in similar terrain, as in the Buller.

The following is a list of publications from one researcher, Dr. Michael Hendryx, Professor of Public Health at Indiana University. The titles show the many ways by which coal mining poisons communities and blights children’s lives.

  • Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal.
  • Unintended consequences of the Clean Air Act: Mortality rates in Appalachian mining communities.
  • An examination of the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining on respiratory symptoms and COPD using propensity scores.
  • Mortality in Appalachian coal-mining regions: The value of statistical life lost.
  • Mortality from heart, respiratory and kidney disease in coal mining areas of Appalachia.
  • Increased risk of depression linked to mountaintop coal mining.
  • Appalachian mountaintop mining particulate matter induces neoplastic transformation of human bronchial epithethial cells and promotes tumor formation.
  • Improving the environmental quality component of the county health rankings model.
  • Self-reported cancer rates in two rural areas of West Virginia with and without mountaintop mining.
  • Health-related quality of life among Central Appalachian residents in mountaintop mining counties.
  • Association between mountaintop mining and birth defects among live births in Central Appalachia.
  • Atmospheric particulate matter size distribution and concentration in West Virginia coal mining and non-mining areas.
  • Childhood asthma in rural-urban areas.
  • Chronic cardiovascular disease mortality in mountaintop mining areas of Central Appalachian states.
  • Atmospheric particulate matter in proximity to mountaintop coal mines: Sources and potential environmental and human impacts.
  • Personal and family health in rural areas of Kentucky with and without mountaintop coal mining.
  • Air pollution particulate matter collected from an Appalachian mountaintop mining site induces cardiovascular dysfunction.
  • Adult tooth loss for residents of US coal mining and Appalachian counties.
  • A comparative analysis of health-related quality of life for US counties with and without coal mining.
  • A geographical information system-based analysis of cancer mortality and population exposure to coal mining activities in West Virginia, USA.
  • Higher coronary heart disease and heart attack morbidity in Appalachian coal mining regions.
  • Ecological integrity of streams related to human cancer mortality rates.
  • Lung cancer mortality is elevated in coal-mining areas of Appalachia.
  • Relations between health indicators and residential proximity to coal mining in West Virginia.
  • Hospitalization patterns associated with Appalachian coal mining.
  • Residence in coal-mining areas and low-birth-weight outcomes.
  • Mortality rates in Appalachian coal mining counties: 24 years behind the nation.
  • Cancer mortality rates in Appalachian mountaintop coal mining areas.
  • The public health impacts of surface coal mining.
  • Increased risk of depression for people living in coal mining areas of central Appalachia.
  • Atmospheric particulate matter in proximity to mountaintop coal mines: sources and potential environmental human health impacts.
  • The long-term economic benefits of wind versus mountaintop removal coal on Coal River Mountain, West Virginia.
  • Mountaintop mining consequences.
  • Learning outcomes among students in relation to West Virginia coal mining: An environmental riskscape approach.
  • Association between residence near surface coal mining and blood inflammation.
  • Health disparities and environmental competence: A study of Appalachian coal mining.