The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

May 14, 2013

New report warns that black lung on the rise

CHARLESTON — A new scientific paper details the growing evidence that black lung is on the rise among Appalachian miners.

“The sum of the evidence really shows this is a worsening problem, instead of a problem that’s getting better,” said co-author Dr. Robert Cohen, a medical professor at John Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in Chicago. “When you put it all together, it underscores the need to do something — better regulations, more stringent regulations, and better enforcement.”

The research also details increasing evidence that modern mining generates huge amounts of dust that strangles miners’ respiratory systems when it is not property contained.

“The cause of the recent resurgence and severe forms of coal mine dust lung disease is likely multi-factorial,” says the report. “Flaws have been recognized in existing regulations, dust-control practices, and enforcement.”

The report was authored by leading black lung doctors, including West Virginia University’s Dr. Edward Lee Petsong. It was published last month in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a respected journal for lung doctors.

The report arrives as the Obama administration is saying little about any progress on finalizing a rule it proposed more than 21/2 years ago to reduce exposure to dust that causes the deadly disease.

Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere told the Charleston Gazette that the coal dust rule is on the agency’s regulatory agenda for this year.

Black lung, or coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, is an irreversible and potentially deadly disease caused by exposure to coal dust.

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