In this photo, from 2015 Joe Main, third from left, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, and Patricia Silvey, center, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operations with MSHA, speak with workers at the Gibson North mine, in Princeton, Ind. Federal mining regulators in December 2017 indicated they were reconsidering rules meant to protect underground miners from breathing coal and rock dust - the cause of black lung - and diesel exhaust, which can cause cancer.
Timothy D. Easley / Associated Press
‘energy, explained’ podcast: The black lung disease epidemic that ‘shouldn’t have happened’
StateImpact's Reid Frazier talks with NPR's Howard Berkes
Scott Blanchard became StateImpact Pennsylvania’s editor in November 2017.
He had been enterprise editor at the York (Pa.) Daily Record, where he led the newsroom’s investigative and projects reporting. The team produced investigations with statewide impact on subjects including domestic violence, gun laws and clergy abuse.
Blanchard arrived in York in 2001 and helped lead national award-winning coverage of the 30-year-old York riots murders investigation. In years since, he has focused on narrative storytelling, ethics and training, with special emphasis on trauma journalism.
He was a 2013 Ochberg Fellow, receiving training at Columbia University in PTSD science, self-help and peer support. He led a team that created a trauma awareness/peer-support program in Digital First Media in 2014. Under new owner Gannett, he helped and/or led trauma awareness and peer support training at newsrooms in York, Wilmington, Del., St. Cloud, Minn., Wausau, Wisc. and Milwaukee, Wisc. as well as at the Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association in Harrisburg.
He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Society of News Editors (2015-16).
Blanchard grew up in Rockville, Md. and is a University of Missouri graduate.
In December, an NPR and Frontline investigation revealed that regulators didn’t act when they could have stopped the exposure of thousands of coal miners to toxic dust.
Now, NPR reporter Howard Berkes and a team discovered, there’s an epidemic of black lung disease caused by that dust.
The disease is fatal. Bernard Carlson, who worked in mines in Somerset and Westmoreland counties in western Pennsylvania, has it.
“No matter how you filter, no matter what they filter, the fine stuff is what gets in there and cuts you up,” Carlson told Berkes. “And it ain’t coming out. Once it gets in there, it ain’t coming out. The black stuff sometimes will. But that fine silica dust? Uh-uh. You’re done.”
Berkes and his team found Carlson and other miners after their research on advanced black lung disease cases led to a simple question.
“…I’d been wondering, how could this happen?” Berkes said. “If the regulatory system that was supposed to protect these miners had been working, it shouldn’t have happened.”
In the latest episode of StateImpact Pennsylvania’s ‘energy, explained’ podcast, Berkes talks with StateImpact’s Reid Frazier about the story, and how miners like Carlson reflect on how practices in coal mines caused them to contract this deadly form of black lung disease.