Apparently part of the increase is because most coal miners don't get tested till they retire or are laid off because they are afraid their employers will fire them if they find out:Across Appalachia, coal miners are suffering from the most serious form of the deadly mining disease black lung in numbers more than 10 times what federal regulators report, an NPR investigation has found .The government, through the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, reported 99 cases of "complicated" black lung, or progressive massive fibrosis, throughout the country the last five years.
But NPR obtained data from 11 black lung clinics in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, which reported a total of 962 cases so far this decade. The true number is probably even higher, because some clinics had incomplete records and others declined to provide data.
This is what coal does:Stanley waited until he was out of work, after 30 years mining coal, before he got his first chest X-ray. Miners avoid the NIOSH testing, he says, because they worry it could cost them their jobs.
"If you're working and you go and have that stuff done and the company finds out about it, they'll find a way to get rid of you," Stanley says. "As long as you're working and producing you're an asset. But now when you get something wrong with you, you become a liability. And they'll find a way to get rid of you."
Advanced Black Lung Cases Surge In Appalachia : NPR
Another reason for the increase:
Everything about coal from cradle to grave is toxic. We need to leave this form of energy in the past.Cohen, Laney and other black lung experts believe thinner coal seams in central Appalachia are likely to blame for spikes in complicated black lung. The thickest seams are mostly gone. The thin seams that remain have coal embedded in rock, and that rock contains quartz. Cutting quartz and coal together results in mine dust that includes silica, which is especially toxic in lung tissue. Stanley worked in so much dust he labeled his mining machine the dust dragon.
"They kept getting less coal and more rock. So you're cutting 19 inches of coal, you're cutting 50-60 inches of rock," Stanley recalls. "And the more rock you cut the more dust you're going to eat."