Mar 1, 2010
After declining for decades, black lung disease is becoming prevalent again among coal miners. “Black lung” is the common name for pneumoconiosis, which is caused by inhaling coal dust for prolonged periods of time. It is one of the most deadly of industrial diseases, causing the deaths of 10,000 miners over the last decade.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the rates of disease had more than doubled in just seven short years from 1999 to 2006. Nine% of all miners who had put in more than 25 years showed signs of the disease.
The miners’ damaged lungs testify to the cutbacks in safety and environmental restraints in the mines. To the mine owners, mineworkers are just another piece of machinery, to be used up and tossed aside – in fact, protected less than the machinery.
But miners have a long history of militant battles they carried out to win better working conditions. Their fights forced the government to recognize black lung as an industrial disease. They imposed shorter work days and forced the mine owners to take safety measures like spraying water on the coal face to cut down on dust.
What they did before, they can do again. And it’s essential for their own health that they do it!