The Center for Public Integrity recently was honored with its first Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the scourge of black lung disease in miners. And just this week, steps were taken to end the deadly disease.
CPI’s prize-winning series of articles – “Breathless and Burdened: Dying from Black Lung, Buried by Law and Medicine” – dives into the tragedy of coal miners who were dying of black lung being denied medical claims, due in no small part to the actions of the coal industry and the doctors and lawyers under their influence. The end result has been weakened efforts to strengthen the law.
But on April 23, the Mine Safety and Health Administration issued its final rule on respirable coal mine dust, the cause of a variety of lung diseases. The rule has been years in the making, and stems from a promise made decades ago by the 1969 Coal Act, which mandated reducing dust levels low enough to prevent respiratory diseases.
According to NIOSH, some 76,000 miners have lost their lives in the past 40-plus years due to black lung. That’s more than 1,500 workers every year who die from this disease. CPI’s recognition for highlighting this horrible tragedy – and efforts allowing its persistence – is well-deserved. But it is my hope that such articles won’t be necessary for the future.
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