Nov 13, 2017
Appalachian coal miners tested for black lung disease have been showing alarmingly higher rates of the disease since the early 2000s, local doctors warn.
Clinics in four states alone, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, reported nearly 1,000 cases so far this decade, twice as many as a federal agency counted over the last four decades. The doctors say long-time miners today are twice as likely to become diseased as long-time miners were in the 1990's.
Black lung disease is caused when coal and rock dust breathed by miners gets in their lungs and causes scarring, which builds up and makes breathing harder. According to the doctors, miners are getting more dust in their lungs because they are working more very long shifts with longer weeks and with fewer breaks than before. The more dust they inhale, the more likely they are to get lung scarring.
The doctors also say the miners’ black lung today is made worse by breathing a higher proportion of rock dust than before, since now the companies have them cut through more feet of rock to reach narrower veins of coal.
The mining companies in their frenzy for profits from coal are pushing the growth of this incurable disease.