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Did Crowell & Moring Insult Appalachians with Inbreeding Suggestion?

Posted Jul 12, 2011 7:06 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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News reports are suggesting that Crowell & Moring blundered when it posted an online critique saying consanguinity, rather than mountaintop mining, could be responsible for Appalachian birth defects chronicled in a new study.

The law firm, which has ties to the National Mining Association, “has refuted the study’s findings, but in the process, insulted many Appalachians,” reports WFPL News. Studies have shown that inbreeding isn’t any more common in Appalachia than other areas, the story says.

The Charleston Gazette blog Coal Tattoo has the law firm quote spurring criticism: “The study failed to account for consanguinity, one of the most prominent sources of birth defects.”

The critique has been removed. It had raised several issues with the methodology of the study, which found that people who live near mines involving mountaintop removal have a greater risk of birth defects.

Crowell & Moring spokeswoman Nicole Quigley told the publications in a statement that the website alert was not intended to reflect the views of the National Mining Association.

“Consanguinity is one of a number of commonly addressed issues in studies of this type, regardless of geography,” the statement said. “Scientists address this consideration regularly because it can matter to scientific conclusions, and do so regardless of locale. We did not raise this issue with particular reference to any region, and we did not mean to imply any such thing. That said, we apologize for any offense taken, as none was intended.”

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