Senator Introduces Legislation Aimed at Improving Black Lung Detection

According to a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health, cases of black lung are at a 25-year high in Appalachian coal mining states, and as many as one in five underground coal miners in Appalachia has evidence of black lung.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, has introduced bipartisan legislation to boost participation in federal programs that detect and treat black lung disease among coal miners. The amendment is part of the defense, labor, health, and education spending package currently under consideration on the Senate floor.

According to a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health, cases of black lung are at a 25-year high in Appalachian coal mining states, and as many as one in five underground coal miners in Appalachia has evidence of black lung.

If passed, Warner's legislation would require the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to create a report for Congress within 180 days that details how to increase participation in programs that screen for black lung. NIOSH's Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program offers free black lung screenings, including chest X-rays and lung function testing, but only 35 percent of active miners currently participate. Even fewer retired miners participate.

"Black lung is a deadly disease, but the earlier it's detected, the better the outcomes are. Underground coal miners help keep the heat and the lights on, but often at a significant cost to their own health," Warner said. "By improving outreach efforts, we can make sure that more miners are getting screened so we can catch cases of black lung early and make sure that they can get the treatment they need."

NIOSH's report also would work to identify what keeps coal miners with black lung from accessing treatment.

 

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