New data show spike in severe black lung disease

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.  — New data show many more coal miners across Appalachia suffering from the most serious form of black lung disease than federal regulators previously reported.

National Public Radio says its investigation shows cases 10 times more prevalent, with 11 black lung clinics in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio recording 962 cases so far this decade.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said Thursday that 60 current and former miners —from Pike, Floyd, Letcher and Knott counties in Kentucky — were diagnosed with progressive massive fibrosis, the most severe form of black lung, between January 2015 and last August.

The NIOSH findings, first reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader, spike from 31 cases identified nationwide from 1990-1999.

Black lung has caused about 78,000 deaths since 1968.