Earlier this year, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which found 416 cases of advanced black lung disease in coal miners in central Appalachia from 2013 to 2017 — the highest cluster of cases ever seen. The institute also confirmed a 2016-2017 investigation by National Public Radio (NPR) that discovered hundreds of other cases in southwestern Virginia, southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.
This research indicates that black lung is returning, even as safety measures have improved over the course of decades. Dust screens and ventilation had nearly removed the disease from the U.S. in the 1990s, but these recent studies suggest otherwise in coal country.
Remember when coal was king and miners died slow, horrifying deaths from black lung disease? Well, guess what. Not only are taxpayers—thanks to Donald Trump and a few coal billionaires—propping up the inefficient and planet-killing coal industry with renewed vigor, it turns out black lung never went away, either.
"There's a great deal of evidence ... that definitively demonstrates that we are in the midst of an epidemic of black lung disease in central Appalachia."
The largest-ever cluster of miners affected by advanced black lung disease has been tallied in central Appalachia. Epidemiologists at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health confirmed 416 cases of progressive massive fibrosis or complicated black lung in just three clinics in central Appalachia from 2013 to 2017. An NPR study of 17 clinics found more than 2,000 cases in a concentrated region, more than 20 times the official tally of 99 cases reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.