According to an investigation conducted by NPR, cases of Black Lung disease are still occurring in numbers much higher than previously reported. Black Lung is the name most commonly used when discussing progressive massive fibrosis, a disease most common to coal miners. The disease is a type of pneumoconiosis a disease of the lungs, and it caused by to inhalation of dust, characterized by inflammation, coughing, and fibrosis. The occupations that are related to the coal industry have been pinpointed for years as occupations where workers have been most often exposed to coal dust and silica particles leading to the classification of Coal worker’s pneumoconiosis a progressive disease that causes Black Lung. In recent months, the Coal Industry has made headlines. The Trump Administration has vowed to lift the restrictions on “Clean Coal,” and to bring mining jobs back to the coal workers of the Appalachian region. Comedian John Oliver took on the Coal Industry in his HBO show Last Week Tonight, and the National Geographic Channel just aired a documentary “From the Ashes” that looked at the totality of the industries impact from the extraction of coal to the after affects the use of coal has had on both people and the environment. The recent discussions related to the coal industry have been numerous, but they have only scratched the surface of the real impact the coal industry has on the workers. One news organization has been following the health of coal industry employees, and their investigation has shown that Black Lung disease is still a major health hazard for coal workers. For the last several years, investigative reporters from National Public Radio (NPR) have been involved in researching Black Lung disease. The data they have collected is alarming, with their research finding the number of miners afflicted by the disease to be much, much higher than the numbers that have been reported by government agencies. The most recent report filed by NPR investigative reporters was discussed on a June 30,, 2017 edition of the NPR show All Things Considered. The show titled, “Government Researchers Plan Response to Rising Rates of Black Lung Disease,” covered a meeting of government that occurred in late June, as a response to the data collected and reported by NPR investigators, and a federal study, both of which showed much higher rates of Black Lung disease than previously reported. In that report, NPR investigators uncovered 2,000 cases of black lung disease compared to the 99 case of the disease reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the government agency responsible for the collection and reporting of occupational diseases and illness. The meeting covered by NPR reporter Howard Berkes, was the government’s response to those findings. At that meeting, Epidemiologist Scott Laney and a team of agents from the NIOSH hoped to set the groundwork for a plan to combat the growing number of Black Lung case found in the central Appalachian region. During a presentation to a National Academy of Science committee investigating efforts to control the coal mine dust that causes the disease, Laney told attendees gathered at the conference that, “there’s a great deal of evidence … that demonstrates that we are in the midst of an epidemic of black lung disease in central Appalachia." This statement echoed one he had made in front of coal miners, medical students, physicians, and attorneys meeting in Pikesville, Kentucky in April of this year. During that presentation, Laney told attendees that they were at the epicenter of one of the largest industrial medicine disasters that the United States has ever seen." The recent meetings will not provide an immediate solution to those already impacted by the devastating effects of Coal worker’s pneumoconiosis or those who have advanced into the later stages of Black Lung disease. The meetings do not mean that coal miners will be protected from inhaling the coal dust and silica that floats freely in their workspace. It does, however, show that someone somewhere is watching those responsible for watching the industry, and that scientist and researchers, corporations and government agencies are all aware of the negative health effects coal industry workers face. For more information about Black Lung disease and the coal industry visit these links: The American Lung Association – Pneumoconiosis Information To review the Reports from NPR (National Public Radio) related to Black Lung visit the links below: • All Things Considered, June 30, 2017 Government Researchers Plan Response to Rising Rates Of Black Lung Disease • What Is Black Lung? NPR report July 9, 2012 • NPR Continues To Find Hundreds of Cases of Advanced Black Lung, NPR Report July 1, 2017
For additional Information discussed in this post you can visit the links below:
Smithsonian Magazine Report, smithsonianmag.com MAY 16, 2017 • Why Black Lung Disease Is Deadlier Than Ever Before Click this link to visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) / National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) COAL WORKERS' HEALTH SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM For Information about the documentary film “From the Ashes,” visit www.fromtheashes.com or the National Geographic Channel: From the Ashes Documentary To watch John Oliver’s segment on the Coal Industry from his HBO show, Last Week Tonight visit; -- https://youtu.be/aw6RsUhw1Q8 For Information related to President Trump and his administration stance on energy production including coal you can visit www.whitehouse.gov or click here to read the America First Energy Plan
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