January 16, 2015
The Honorable Mike Pence
Governor, State of Indiana
200 W. Washington St., Rm. 206
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dear Governor Pence,
We have read the Nov. 29 report in The Indianapolis Star about fugitive dust from the Bear Run
Mine in Sullivan County. As medical and public health professionals working in Indiana, we are
concerned about its effects on the health of local residents.
We ask you to direct the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to appoint
independent local health or law enforcement officials to monitor the mine’s compliance with dust
requirements and submit evidence to IDEM. Additionally, we request that IDEM staff vigorously
enforce fugitive dust requirements against the mine’s owner.
According to the article in the Star, since the mine started operations in 2010, several residents
have suffered from chronic respiratory diseases due to the large quantities of dust that escape
the mine property and drift into neighboring communities. The story states:
“Since 2012, state environmental regulators have received numerous complaints from
neighbors about dust. In spite of rules that say mines must contain dust inside the property
boundaries, no action has been taken. A gap in Indiana regulations says that state officials
must personally see dust to take action, but in four inspections, officials said no dust was
visible. In essence, state regulators tell residents that if inspectors don’t see the dust clouds,
they didn’t happen.”
The story goes on to describe health concerns of local residents, as documented in a study of
air quality and blood samples led by Indiana University professor Michael Hendryx of the School
of Public Health.
“Those living close to the mining operation had average indoor air-pollution readings nearly
three times as high as those living farther away. Outside it was nearly twice as bad for those
living closer to the mine.
“The researchers also tested the residents’ blood for a type of protein that’s an indicator of
blood inflammation, which could be caused by breathing dust.
“According to Hendryx, people who score a 3 or more on the tests should go visit a doctor because they may be at risk of health problems. Those living close to Bear Run scored an average of 4.23. Those further away scored a 2.5.”
We believe the relationship between fugitive dust from the mine and the higher blood test scores is much more than coincidence, and it needs to be acknowledged and addressed. IDEM’s mission is to implement federal and state regulations to protect human health and the environment. We ask you to ensure that IDEM stays on-mission and exercise its authority to protect residents’ health from dangerous fine particles, which can damage lungs and create expensive and debilitating respiratory illness.
Make a New Year’s resolution to attend the upcoming InJAC quarterly meeting! It will be on Wednesday, January 14, at 8:30 am, at the IPHA office, in the large conference room. While we would love to see you in person, if you need to call in instead, the number is 1-888-394-8197, PIN: 502344.
We will update the coalition on the activities of all five of our workgroups and reveal our new plans for the annual conference. Additionally, we will discuss how the executive committee is putting a heavy emphasis on supporting our asthma educators to make sure they have all the tools and training they need.
A meeting agenda can be found here. Light refreshments will also be available.
On Thursday, December 18, a broad coalition of leading national and statewide health organizations joined together to call for an end to cheap tobacco products that make it easy for young people to use and become addicted to tobacco. Hoosiers for a Healthier Indiana (HHI) is advocating for a $1 increase on the price of all tobacco products in Indiana with revenues directed to funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs, as well as other critical state health programs.
According to HHI, a $1 increase in the price of cigarettes would:
- Reduce youth smoking by 13.3 percent.
- Prevent premature, tobacco-caused death in 32,500 Hoosier smokers.
- Save $2.08 billion in long-term health-care costs.
- Generate $244 million in new revenue to fund state health programs
We are happy to report that we have received survey responses from school nurses in 33 counties! While we hope to hear from nurses in all 92 counties, we are pleased with the results thus far. The SURVEY* will go a long way in helping us to identify the Indiana counties and schools that are most affected by asthma, as well as those that need the most assistance in educating their communities.
Please check in with your childs’ school nurse or any others that you may know, and make sure they have received copies of the plan and ask them to fill out the SURVEY*. Each school nurse, or nurse coordinator, that conpletes the survey will receive a $10 gift card to either Starbucks, Target or CVS.