Many miners lose their lives each year, not just to accidents at mines, but also to the greatest threat to American miners: black lung disease (also known as Coal Worker's pneumoconiosis). Black lung is a disabling occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of excessive levels of respirable coal mine dust. The risk or the possibility of contracting the condition increases with continued exposure to coal mine dust. Chances are also raised in people over the age of 50. Even when preventive measures are taken, such as wearing a mask, it cannot prevent coal dust from entering the lungs. This has plagued coal miners for decades, “cases of black lung really began to decline in underground coal miners as part of the regulations that came about from the 1969 Coal Act, but over the past 5 to 10 years the cases of black lung have been on the rise” Mike Hockenberry (Mechanical Engineer MSHA). According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has reported that 9 percent of miners who worked in mines for at least 25 years tested positive for black lung in 2005 and 2006, a figure that more than doubled over 10 years. The federal government has paid out more than $44 billion in compensation for miners totally disabled by black lung since 1970, according to the Labor Department’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. All told, more than 10,000 miners have died of black lung in the past decade, according to federal government. Deaths from this painful disease don’t have the sudden, devastating impact or bring the media attention that mine explosions generate, black lung has sadly gotten less attention than it deserves. The safety issues and symptoms of black lung are very important to me because I have an uncle who was diagnosed with black lung a few years ago. Over the last few years I’ve seen what black lung has done to him and how it’s changed his life dramatically. He was never educated or trained on ways to help prevent breathing...
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