Black-Lung Coal Miners Facing Serious Threat from Virus Spread – by Will Wade (Bloomberg News – March 12, 2020)

(Bloomberg) — The biggest labor union for U.S. coal miners is warning that members are at “significant risk” from the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

Mines are enclosed spaces where the highly contagious virus can easily spread, according to Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America. The trade group is developing guidelines that it plans to issue to members soon, he said by email Thursday.

Miners also face greater health risks. As many as 20% of long-time miners may have black lung in central Appalachia, a historic bastion of U.S. coal production that includes parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

That would be an underlying health condition that could exacerbate the symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus that was officially labeled a pandemic on Wednesday.

Overall in the U.S., about 10% of coal miners could have black lung disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The CDC report on black lung studied miners who have worked in the industry for more than 25 years.

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