Kirsten Almberg and colleague Robert Cohen at the University of Illinois, Chicago, found more than 4,600 severe cases of the disease while combing through black lung benefit claims filed with the federal government since 1970. More than half the cases they found happened in the past 16 years, and they found sharp annual increases in the disease in central Appalachian coal mining states, Berkes reports.
"So it is certainly not a blip. It's not just a small spike. It's kind of a relentless and increasing progression of disease," Cohen told Berkes.