The US Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) will fund a study of existing research concerning the correlation between increased health risks in human beings residing near surface coal mine sites in Central Appalachia.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will carry out the $1m study for two years. It will select a committee of 12 subject matter experts to study a growing amount of academic research and identify gaps in knowledge.

OSMRE will oversee the cooperative agreement with NAS and will not play any role in the research. Director Joe Pizarchik said: “This kind of project represents the best of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, which was signed into law 39 years ago today.

"The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will carry out the $1m study for two years."

“West Virginia asked us in the federal government for help. We wanted to do the best we could for the people, so we brought the National Academy of Sciences on board because they are one of the world’s most reputable scientific organisations.”

Centers for Disease Control and the US Environmental Protection Agency are also conducting similar studies. The committee of experts will seek information from the public about the potential effects on human health associated with coal mining.

The NAS study builds on on-going administration efforts to assist communities impacted by surface coal mining, especially those living in Appalachia.