No one has to get black lung disease, also known as “miner’s asthma” or pneumoconiosis. The truth is Black Lung Disease is a terrible, painful, serious and deadly disease that is totally preventable. And it’s back, in a big way.
Black Lung Disease is a workers’ disease, an occupational hazard, for those men and women who work in America’s coal mines. In the Coal Mine Act, federal law recognized “black lung” as the tell-tale symptom of this occupational disease, and it has been commonly known as Black Lung Disease for decades.
There have been steadfast gains in wiping out Black Lung Disease. In 1969, Congress ordered that Black Lung Disease be targeted and ended as a danger and work hazard in United States Coal Mines. (See, Title IV of the Coal Mine Act.) State and national efforts have worked to meet this goal, although it is reported that around 1500 people still continued to die each year from the disease, caused by breathing in coal dust while working in the coal mines over the years.
Indiana Coal Miners and Illinois Coal Mines: Growing Danger of Black Lung Disease
When most people think of American coal mines, they likely think of the Appalachian states’ miners made famous by songs like Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” or Elmore Leonard’s hit TV series “Justified”. However, southern Indiana and most of the state of Illinois also have their share of coal mines and workers in the Indiana and Illinois coal mines are at risk of Black Lung Disease just as their fellow coal miners are in Kentucky, and West Virginia.
In fact, 90% of United States underground coal reserves are found in 10 states, with Illinois being number two (78 tons) and Indiana coming in at number 10 (10 tons). Montana has the most coal reserves (120 tons) and the remaining 40 states combined have a total of 51 tons (or 10% of total U.S. coal reserves).
- You can check out the number of coal mines in our area by viewing online maps here (Indiana) and here (Illinois).
- Or check out this list of active Illinois coal mines and this list of underground Indiana coal mines.
Black Lung Disease Has Returned to Threaten US Coal Miners
Despite decades of work at eradicating Black Lung Disease, recent reports from the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are that Black Lung Disease is returning with diagnoses reaching the highest number in 40 plus years. Specifically, “progressive massive fibrosis” (PMF) is on the rampage amidst our American coal mining workers. PMF is one form of Black Lung Disease, and it is one of its more horrific and deadly versions.
The NIOSH research was done in three states, testing their coal miners for symptoms of Black Lung Disease. It did not include testing of coal miners in Indiana or Illinois. However, coal miners are just as endangered here as they are in the coal mines of neighboring states.
Doctors studying this issue are reporting that today, not only is Black Lung Disease returning in a big way, it has evolved into deadlier versions. Another scary fact: now, it is young coal miners that are coming down with Black Lung Disease, much more than their older co-workers.
This TOTALLY PREVENTABLE OCCUPATIONAL DISEASE may well be infecting and slowly killing Indiana coal miners and workers in Illinois coal mines right now.
Coal Mine Owners and Operators: Why Has Black Lung Disease Returned???
Coal miners should get themselves tested for Black Lung Disease and start treatment as soon as possible to fight against this terrible and horrific illness. Meanwhile, there is a big question to be asked of owners and operators of U.S. Coal Mines: why is this disease returning now? Have costs been cut yet again by companies to maximize profits while putting workers at risk of injury or death?