According to the Northwest Community Action Programs (NOWCAP) Black Lung Clinic, more people in Wyoming likely have black lung disease than is actually reported, and a federal event this week is trying to raise awareness.
Black lung disease comes from inhaling coal dust. It is incurable, as it chars the lungs – making breathing extremely difficult. It is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse with time. Often, miners will not realize they have the disease until retiring from the mines.
Typically, the disease is associated with underground mining – specifically in Appalachia. But, it affects surface miners too, which is how coal is primarily mined in Wyoming.
“There is a misconception that surface miners don’t get it, and they do,” said Sarah Salveson-Jones, who is the program director of the Northwest Community Action Programs (NOWCAP) Black Lung Clinic, which helps miners in our region. “Silica will get in there and kind of rip up your lungs and the coal dust will get into that sensitive area.”