Screening Results Finds Black Lung Hot Spots In Eastern Kentucky

By: Heather Haley Email
By: Heather Haley Email

The results are in and Eastern Kentucky has some black lung hot spots. Those hot spots are in three Eastern Kentucky counties and some in West Virginia. The three counties being called hot spots are Pike, Letcher, and Knott County.

In the fall of last year officials with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, performed black lung screenings in Eastern Kentucky. Now they've published the results of those screenings and NIOSH officials say they found what they call an alarming number of black lung cases.

In the fall of 2006, NIOSH officials brought black lung screenings to Eastern Kentucky. Coal miners received free x-rays and breathing tests to track their lung health, but now NIOSH officials say the results of that study found Letcher, Knott and Pike Counties to be black lung hot spots.

"Pneumoconiosis is a fairly typically slowly developing disease. It can take 20 to 40 years to develop," said Mike Attfield.

NIOSH officials say they discovered 37 cases of advanced black lung in 7 counties across Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia out of nearly 1000 miners tested. NIOSH officials say the study didn't take into account the miner's lifestyle and TECO Coal company officials say other factors affect lung health such as smoking.

"Before we go and jump to that conclusion, let's do a valid scientific study," said Paul Matney with TECO Coal.

NIOSH officials say there are other issues with the coal itself that weren't taken into consideration for the study such as the rank of the coal being mined here in Eastern Kentucky.

"But that different toxicity isn't taken into account in the regulations for dust control," Attfield said.

NIOSH officials are now suggesting lowering the dust exposure from 2 milligrams to 1 and giving miners personal dust monitors to track their exposure.

One thing both NIOSH officials and coal industry officials agree on, the health and safety of coal miners is the most important thing so they must work together to keep them safe.


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