In our last blog, we talked about how mining officials avoided reporting dangerous air conditions inside their mines. Now we will discuss how these oversights destroyed lives.
We have long known that miners who work long hours are likely to develop coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung. Coal dust builds up in the lungs, creating breathing complications. The more advanced form called progressive massive fibrosis (aka complicated black lung) causes air obstruction and shortness of breath. Black lung causes about 1,000 deaths every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
When Congress passed federal laws regulating the amount of coal dust allowed in mines, black lung rates fell sharply by 90 percent in the initial years. However, black lung rates have been steadily increasing, especially among younger miners who have spent relatively little time in the mine. Since the 1980s, incidents of complicated black lung have quadrupled. Most of these involve miners living in eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia.
Demand for coal put more pressure on miners, forcing longer hours and longer exposure to harmful coal dust. Advanced technology allowed for more quartz and sandstone mining, which releases silica in the air. Silica causes effects similar to asbestos exposure: silica particles become trapped in the lungs, causing an increase of lung tissue or out-of-control cell growth that eventually causes lung cancer like mesothelioma.
The steady increase of black lung has resulted from mining managers favoring speed and economic efficiency over basic health concerns. As a result, many young miners will face challenges for the rest of their lives. They might not be able to enjoy their favorite activities; they might run out of breath after speaking for a few seconds. They might die young.
Did exposure to harmful substances on the job cause a serious illness for you or a loved one? Contact us today. The consultation is free, and the results could be life-changing.
Cappolino Dodd Krebs LLP – asbestos lawyers