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Alternative Spring Break Trip

About the Project

Over the past three years, Restoring Eden student volunteers have knocked on 14,000 doors and gathered over 2,000 health surveys during our spring break trip to mountaintop removal coal mining communities of Appalachia.

People in the hills and hollers of Appalachia have long lived on top of valuable coal deposits. Despite promises of prosperity, poverty is rampant in these communities and they have some of the highest cancer and disease rates in the country. Locals find themselves living under clouds of silica dust and next to leaking slurry ponds filled with arsenic-laced sludge, yet there has been almost no primary research done on the health impacts of coal mining in these communities.

With the data collected through our Appalachian Community Health Research Project, researchers at West Virginia University have published two studies in peer-reviewed journals showing that cancer and disease rates are twice as high in mountaintop removal coal mining communities compared to non-coal mining communities. In addition to collecting hard data for community health research, students have had their eyes opened to the relationship between environmental destruction, poverty, and health.


Read the Findings

Below are two studies published in peer-reviewed journals with data collected during the project.

“Self-Reported Cancer Rates in Two Rural Areas of West Virginia with and without Mountaintop Coal Mining.” Journal of Community Health

Personal and Family Health in Rural Areas of Kentucky With and Without Mountaintop Coal Mining." Journal of Rural Health (2013)



Schools Involved

Students from the following schools have participated in the Appalachian Community Health Survey Project over the last three years:


- Bethel University (MN)

- Northwestern College (MN)

- St. Olaf College (MN)
- St. Catherine University (MN)
- Wheaton College (IL)
- Olivet Nazarene University (IL)

- Mercy College of Applied Sciences (IA)

- Dordt College (IA)

- Calvin College (MI)
- Hope College (MI)

- University of Michigan (MI)
- Anderson University (IN)

- Case Western Reserve University (OH)

- Malone University (OH)

- Geneva College (PA)

- Messiah College (PA)
- Carson-Newman College (TN)
- Lipscomb University (TN)
- University of the South – Sewanee (TN)

- Samford University (AL)
- University of Portland (OR)




If you have any questions or inquiries about the project, please email or call 360-263-4491.

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