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Collection: Increase in Black Lung Disease in West Virginia

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Health impacts of Black Lung disease in Coal Miners is on the increase in the past 10 years. Younger miners are being affected and for the first time surface as well as underground miners are being affected. A joint investigation by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has found incidence of black lung disease among coal miners doubled in the last decade, according to data analyzed by epidemiologist Scott Laney at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 was supposed to sharply cut exposure to coal mine dust. The act set a standard for coal dust exposure (2 milligrams per cubic meter of air), which was as little as 1/4 of the concentrations miners breathed at the time. Black lung experts and mine safety advocates have warned of the resurgence of the disease since 1995. New reporting by CPI and NPR reveals the extent to which federal regulators and the mining industry failed to protect coal miners in the intervening years.
An analysis of federal data by CPI and NPR also shows that the mining industry and federal regulators have known for more than two decades that coal miners were breathing excessive amounts of the coal mine dust that causes black lung. CPI and NPR also found that the system for controlling coal mine dust is plagued by weak regulations and inaccurate reporting that sometimes includes fraud. "This is clearly a public health epidemic," Laney says. "This is a rare disease that should not be occurring. It's occurring at a high proportion of individuals who are being exposed."
Especially shocking to Laney and others focused on black lung is the grip the disease has on younger miners and its rapid evolution to progressive massive fibrosis, or complicated black lung.
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