Incidents of black lung vastly under-reported in US Appalachia — NPR

An epidemic is killing thousands of coal miners, and regulators could have stopped it, according to a joint National Public Radio (NPR) and PBS Frontline investigation.

'Black lung' has been plaguing coal miners for generations across Appalachian states, and in Virginia, NPR tracked the plights of former coal miners suffering from the disease.

The multiyear investigation found that the former coal miners are part of a pattern of a recently discovered outbreak of the advanced stages of black lung disease, also known as progressive massive fibrosis.

According to NPR, a federal monitoring program reported only 99 cases of advanced black lung disease nationwide from 2011-2016, but the joint investigation identified over 2,000 coal miners with black lung in only five of the Appalachian states. Appalachia stretches from Southern New York to northern Alabama and Georgia, and in some areas coal mining jobs were a way out of the poverty afflicting the region.

The joint investigation analyzed federal regulatory data, and revealed that regulators had evidence of toxic mine dust exposures that would lead to respiratory illness, and they failed to take action to stop it.

Read the full report here.