Environment
3:08 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Coal Workers at Small Mines More Likely to Get Black Lung Disease, Study Finds

Coal miners who work in small mines are more than twice as likely to contract the most serious form of black lung disease, according to a new federal study. 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health studied more than 3,700 coal miners between 2005 and 2012. They found that miners who worked in mines with fewer than 50 employees were more likely to both get complicated pneumoconiosis and show signs of abnormal lung functions.

Wes Addington is the deputy director of the Appalachian Citizens Law Center. He says, it’s one thing to see that coal miners are still developing mild lung problems.

“That tells us that either the dust regulation wasn’t low enough to begin with, which is what the data shows, or in conjunction with that, operators weren’t complying," said Addington. "But under no circumstances should we be seeing such high rates of miners developing complicated pneumoconiosis.” 

New, stricter dust regulations aimed at curbing rising black lung rates went into effect last week, but many components will be phased in over the next two years.