An NPR investigative report has found the number of coal miners suffering from the black lung doubled during the last ten years. The respiratory disease, caused by excessive inhalation of coal dust, has quadrupled in West Virginia, Virginia, and eastern Kentucky.
What’s more: federal regulators knew miners were breathing more and more coal dust, and didn’t do much to stop it.
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.”
Howard Berkes’ report will air on All Things Considered this afternoon. StateImpact Pennsylvania will talk to Berkes later this week, too.