Quantcast

'History Going in the Wrong Direction' as Worst Form of Black Lung Disease Rises Again

Health + Wellness
Miners surface on the elevator at Virginia-Pocahontas Mine #4 near Richlands, VA in April 1974. Jack Corn / U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

By Andrea Germanos

Spotlighting the terrible human impact of the nation's continued reliance on coal, new research shows the most severe form of black lung disease, progressive massive fibrosis (PMF), is on the rise—big time.

"This is history going in the wrong direction," said lead researcher Kirsten S. Almberg, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


The findings are based on information from the U.S. Department of Labor, which has the data on former miners seeking benefits from the Federal Black Lung Program.

From when that program began in 1970 until 2016, 4,679 miners were determined to have PMF. Yet about half of those cases—2,318—were identified since 2000.

The overall trend was not a shock to the researchers, given that the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, using surveillance data of active coal miners, found a similar upward trend in 2014.

"We were, however, surprised by the magnitude of the problem and are astounded by the fact that this disease appears to be resurging despite modern dust control regulations," Almberg stated.

The largest increase of the miners with PMF was in central Appalachian states. Virginia experienced the greatest increase in percentage of PMF cases over the past four decades, surging from 0 to 12 percent in 2015. West Virginia came in second place, increasing from 0 percent in 1972 to 11 percent in 2016.

The new research was presented at the American Thoracic Society's International Conference, which ended Wednesday.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, continues to try to save the dying industry and boast that it's "saving coal." Coal workers, however are not being saved. As Newsweek reported earlier this year, "The president has been quick to celebrate the 771 net workers that were hired in 2017, but the administration's push to support the dirtiest of fossil fuels has been accompanied by a surge in deaths of the workers who procure it. The 2017 death toll was the highest since 2014—when there were roughly 60,000 more miners at work in America."

According to Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, "Whether coal will rebound or not (it won't) isn't the real issue. These are the questions we should be asking: What will replace it? And how will the transition affect the same coal-mining communities that received spurious promises from candidate Donald Trump that he could bring coal back from the brink? For the answers, we need only consider what most Americans agree on: Investing in clean, renewable energy makes more sense than going from one dirty fuel (coal) to another (gas)."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pixabay

By Claire L. Jarvis

A ruckus over biofuels has been brewing in Iowa.

Read More Show Less
Serena and Venus Williams have been known to follow a vegan diet. Edwin Martinez / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Whitney E. Akers

  • "The Game Changers" is a new documentary on Netflix that posits a vegan diet can improve athletic performance in professional athletes.

  • Limited studies available show that the type of diet — plant-based or omnivorous — doesn't give you an athletic advantage.

  • We talked to experts about what diet is the best for athletic performance.

Packed with record-setting athletes displaying cut physiques and explosive power, "The Game Changers," a new documentary on Netflix, has a clear message: Vegan is best.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
An illegally trafficked tiger skull and pelt. Ryan Moehring / USFWS

By John R. Platt

When it comes to solving problems related to wildlife trade, there are an awful lot of "sticky widgets."

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be both good and bad.

On one hand, it helps your body defend itself from infection and injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain and disease.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Dan Nosowitz

It's no secret that the past few years have been disastrous for the American farming industry.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and coconut oil are fats that have risen in popularity alongside the ketogenic, or keto, diet.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Bijal Trivedi

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on Nov. 13 that describes a list of microorganisms that have become resistant to antibiotics and pose a serious threat to public health. Each year these so-called superbugs cause more than 2.8 million infections in the U.S. and kill more than 35,000 people.

Read More Show Less
Rool Paap / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be good or bad depending on the situation.

Read More Show Less