Coal Harms Miners, Too – by The Editors (Bloomberg News – September 25, 2018)

(The Bloomberg View) — By now, black lung disease was supposed to have mostly gone away. The coal industry was supposed to have improved air quality in the mines enough to prevent miners from inhaling the coal dust that inflames, stiffens and blackens their lungs. In fact, the incidence of this deadly and incurable disease is rising.

Bear this in mind the next time President Donald Trump says coal is “clean” or “beautiful,” and moves to encourage use of the world’s dirtiest fuel.

In the late 1990s, the incidence of black lung fell to 5 percent among longtime miners, from more than 30 percent in 1960s, after mine-dust regulations were imposed and systems were put in place to monitor miners’ health. But now the incidence is back up to 10 percent. In central Appalachia (Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia), one in five miners are stricken.

What’s going on? The number of miners with black lung has risen in the past two decades even as the total number of coal miners has fallen drastically.

Doctors say the disease now progresses faster and is more lethal, perhaps because of new mining techniques that kick up more dangerous kinds of dust. Some ex-miners blame the longer hours that today’s miners spend in ever-deeper mines.

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