Dr. Joseph Smiddy, MD Discussing the Largest Cluster of Advanced Black Lung Ever Recorded in Southwest Virginia.

By Betty Boyd

The coal miner is the personification of the mountaineer spirit in Southwest Virginia. They have many obstacles that must be overcome when they are deep in the mines. One of these is pulmonary lung diseases, such as Black Lung Disease. Black Lung Disease is the inhalation of coal dust while mining.

Dr. Joseph Smiddy, the Medical Director of the Health Wagon has some important information on how to help these hard-working people. A miner can work as little as 8 to 10 years in the mines and have pulmonary lung issues or work 30 to 40 years and show no signs.

There is a real epidemic in Southwest Virginia according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that there is an increase in Pulmonary Massive Fibrous. This is caused by miners working longer shifts, and not wearing proper protective gear such as masks. There are laws that require wearing of these masks and proper ventilation of mines, but this has still become a very serious issue.

Miners daily breathe in coal dust, work in damp conditions and be exposed to various chemicals such as explosives. Smoking is another prevalent concern that causes coughing and shortness of breath. These types of conditions overtime can lead to other complications, such as asthma, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease(COPD). Shortness of breath can lead to a person slowing down and may not be able to work if their symptoms get worse.

Even with these concerns, The Health Wagon can be a great help to the wonderful people, by offering free chest x-rays, breathing testing, and referrals. There will be times that a person can no longer work. Miners have a variety of skills that can be beneficial to other trades, such a truck driving, plumbing and machinist. The Health Wagon can be a conduit in getting a person into a training program.

The area community colleges that are already here work hand in hand with The Health Wagon. They give information and the training necessary to help a miner when working is no longer viable.

The best message for these miners is educating them on the very pressing issue of the various forms of lung diseases. Prevention is the number one way to help.  The Health Wagon provides these totally free services and works with each individual, in giving them a better chance of living a fulfilling life.

Additional Resources:

http://www.blacklungblog.com/2018/02/jama-publishes-finding-of-416-coal-miners-with-severe-black-lung-npr-provides-coverage-and-context/

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/22/climate/black-lung-resurgence.html

https://www.npr.org/2018/02/06/583456129/black-lung-study-biggest-cluster-ever-of-fatal-coal-miners-disease

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