In the foothills of Appalachia there is a silent epidemic that is growing more and more every day, it is Black Lung Disease. During the 1970’s Black Lung disease was very prevalent. Since then the numbers have been up and down, until recently has there been an up-tick in the disease.
So why has there been a resurgence in this disease? There are many factors, such as breathing fine silica dust, lack of enforcement of regulations and the reduction in dust standards over time.
Mr. Ron Carson who recently retired as the Black Lung Program Director at Stone Mountain Health Services, Black Lung Program in VA, who once was a coal miner, has participated in a number of studies over the years, to include a co-authored piece in the April 2018 edition of JAMA.
Carson states that the production of good coal is hard to find, and a lot of rock and silica must be blasted. The breathing of silica is more toxic than the rock dust. In the 1970’s the average age for Black Lung Disease was 65, now it is as young as 28 years of age.
Technology has played a role in the reappearance of Black Lung. It used to take up to 25 men to run the machines needed to dig for coal. Today, only 3 men are needed, however, as the rock is crushed to so fine a powder, it is hard to control the dust output. Consequently, even with wearing respirators, can’t tackle the enormity of the problem.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recently validated how devasting this disease is becoming at a younger age. In Southern VA, Southwestern VA and Eastern KY are the areas seeing the greatest number in the increase of Black Lung Disease.
The miner must bend, stoup, twist with many aches and pains to get the job done. The coal miner is not left with many options, once they become hurt or disabled. This is the only job most of the miners have ever known, and it can be difficult to convince them to get retrained.
How can we help these wonderful and resourceful people? The Health Wagon has been around since the 1970’s giving miners and others hope. They do lung screenings for free, as well as, help the miner to get the right kind of care.
Education and knowledge will the key in helping the coal miner during this epidemic of Black Lung. No miner should be doing this alone, and The Health Wagon has many resources available to aid the miner and his family in their time of need.
For more information on Black Lung Disease see this informative article:
By Betty Boyd