Recent reports reveal that there are ten times more coal miners across Appalachia living with black lung, a progressive and incurable disease.
The data from the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health shows that just 99 cases of progressive massive fibrosis and black lung have been reported since 2011. However, the statistics from eleven black clinics in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia reveal that 962 miners developed this condition over the past ten years.
Worse, the number might be even higher, especially because some medical facilities had incomplete records or refused to provide information about their patients. The CDC underlines that it is not known yet the true extent of progressive massive fibrosis in the United States coal miners.
Pulmonologist Robert Cohen from the University of Illinois, says that this is the worst situation he has ever come across in his career. Based on the estimates, coal companies and taxpayers have spent more than $40 billion in benefits to help coal miners since 1970.
It is worth mentioning that sick miners are younger. More precisely, many of them are in their 30s, although progressive massive fibrosis usually develops in miners in their 60s or 70s.
The problem is that this condition is incurable, and the only way to deal with it is a lung transplant. However, lung transplants can be very expensive, and most coal miners cannot afford it.
Over the past three years, roughly 640 cases of black lung were recorded at Stone Mountain Health Services. In other words, this number is six times higher than the national count. In addition to this, over 40,000 coal miners were either fired or were no longer able to return to work since 2010.
Furthermore, roughly 600 mines were closed. In 2015, approximately three thousand miners visited the Stone Mountain black lung clinics to seek treatment. Fortunately, the government issued new regulations since August, especially regarding the exposure to silica.
The regulators explain that the progressive massive fibrosis and simple black lung develop in ten years, so the high number of cases indicates that these coal miners were exposed for a longer period.
Therefore, they hope that the new laws will be effective in reducing the prevalence of black lung and progressive massive fibrosis among coal miners.
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