"The true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated," according to a report from the NIH National Cancer Institute.
You might recall that I spent half of my childhood in Raleigh County, West Virginia, home of the mine in which 29 men died in 2010. (My high school pal Chris took this picture for the NYT.) The explosion was caused by blatant safety violations; an independent investigation laid the blame at the feet of the owner, Massey Energy.
Don Blankenship, Massey's CEO, was in the New Yorker earlier this week. He set up a nonprofit, see, and with staggering irony called it And For The Sake Of The Kids. He used this organization to buy himself a state supreme court justice, contributing $3 million dollars to the campaign of one Brent Benjamin.
Benjamin did not recuse himself from hearing Blankenship's case when it came before the court. Can you guess who won?
Hint: not the kids.
I have posted before about the impact of toxin exposure on West Virginia kids. This time I have been thinking more about my friends from high school. The newspaper kids and the yearbook kids used to hang out together. One of those boys died recently after a long battle with cancer. The yearbook editor has been Facebooking her breast cancer treatment. Another Facebook friend is relieved that her breast cancer is in remission, but she has such extensive nerve damage from chemo that she can't walk. Trying to be upbeat, she shared a story about trying to drive her wheeled cart through Walmart and crashing into a display.
I'm not laughing.
Exposure to mining waste is associated with a significant increase in cancer risk. Don Blankenship's corner-cutting has real costs and he is not being held accountable for them. West Virginia wants to call itself "open for business." That shouldn't have to mean "closed to the sufferings of its citizens."