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August 03, 2012
Resurgence of black lung disease detailed in report

An investigation by National Public Radio (NPR) and the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) finds that black lung disease affects aboveground miners as well as those working underground. They cite the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health research that revealed severe cases of black lung disease among surface coal miners in 16 states.

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The last black lung disease study of surface miners in 2002 found an illness rate of under 2 percent and a rate of advanced disease of 0.1 percent. In the current study, levels were five times higher. Some of the sick miners had never worked underground, which suggests that exposure to silica is the problem.

NPR and CPI say the U.S. Department of Labor is currently assembling a team of experts to address ways to boost coal mine dust enforcement in light of “statutory and regulatory weaknesses.”

Records obtained for the media report indicate that from 1980 to 2002 the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted nearly 200 mining company managers and contractors for falsifying mine dust samples. “But MSHA says there have been no convictions since then,” noted NPR and CPI.

For more information about detecting black lung disease see the recent article, NIOSH holds free black lung screenings.

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