Study shows substantial resurgence of severe black lung disease among miners

Study shows substantial resurgence of severe black lung disease among miners

Many more coal miners living and working in a single region of eastern Kentucky are suffering from the most serious form of black lung disease than previously reported, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) cautioned.

Between Jan. 2015 and Aug. 2016, at least 60 current and former coal miners were diagnosed with progressive massive fibrosis (PMF). Investigators with the federal agency's National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) also confirmed all those cases.

PMF is basically an advanced stage of black lung disease, which is caused exclusively by lengthy exposure to dust. By late 1990s, this disease really was not being detected among miners at all. The new cases have shown a very substantial resurgence of the disease. However, the cause of the increase in the PMF cases remains unclear.

Lead investigator Dr. David J. Blackley, an epidemiologist with NIOSH, said, "The factors or combination of factors that led to this increase in cases of PMF in eastern Kentucky and whether there are more unrecognized cases in neighboring coal mining regions are unknown."

However, some believe that new or modified practices of mining in the region might be causing hazardous dust exposure, resulting in resurgence of the disease.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety & Health Administration has made some changes in its standards to lower the level of allowable dust in mines and mandate the use of personal dust monitors to allow miners to measure their exposure to dust in real time.