Recent studies have shown that the prevalence of Black Lung in central Appalachia is higher than it has been in 25 years. In fact, one out of every five coal miners working in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia have been diagnosed with this serious, incurable disease.
How it Happens
Known medically as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or simply CWP, this disease is caused directly by long-term exposure and inhalation of silica and coal dust. The presence of these substances in the lungs leads to scarring over time, which, in turn, diminishes the affected miners’ abilities to breathe. To complicate matters further, symptoms of CWP do not typically begin to appear until at least ten years after exposure, which means that rates of the fatal disease will likely continue to climb in the immediate future.
Severity of CWP
On top of noting that general rates of CWP are On the rise, scientists have also noted the highest rate of progressive massive fibrosis, the most severe form of the disease, ever recorded. Five percent of veteran miners in the area have now been diagnosed with progressive massive fibrosis.
What it Means
Celeste Monforton, a public health official who used to work as a federal mine safety regulator, points out that the current protections that are in place are simply not sufficient to protect miners. The rules themselves, she says, are inadequate and the enforcement of them within the industry is similarly lacking, largely due to an unwillingness to sanction operators who don’t follow the already lenient rules.
What is Being Done
The National Mining Association’s spokeswoman, Ashley Burke, notes that the study from which the majority of the data evaluating contemporary cases of CWP has been drawn also evaluated miners who were exposed prior to 2016 when more rigorous health and safety standards went into effect. As a result, little is currently being done to protect the health and safety of current miners.
Those who have been working in the Appalachian Coal Mining industry and are now suffering the devastating effects of CWP, as a result, aren’t being left without any recourse, though. They can contact Jacobs Law Office for information about their legal options today.