Monday, September 15, 2014

Most severe form of black lung disease on the rise, says federal health and safety agency

Complicated black lung—the most severe form of the disease—has reached levels not seen since the early 1970s, says a study by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Erica Peterson reports for WFPL in Louisville. NIOSH, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been testing underground coal miners in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia for the disease for 40 years."

Evan Smith, an attorney with the Appalachian Citizens Law Center, told Peterson, “What we’ve seen since especially the '80s is that there’s been under-enforcement of the rules, there’s been major loopholes that have meant that even if you look at the book and say, ‘This is what the dust level is,’ that’s not what miners have been exposed to.”

The study's authors "hypothesize that the increased toxicity of what miners are breathing could play a part," Peterson writes. "Smith said because technology is allowing miners to mine thinner coal seams, they’re breathing things other than coal dust." He told Peterson, “The mix of dust they’re being exposed to isn’t as much as pure coal as what maybe my grandfather would have been breathing. Instead there’s a lot more rock, sandstone, shale. And what’s in those rocks ends up being more damaging to miners’ lungs.” (Read more)

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