Black Lung

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / via Charleston Newspapers

Dr. Donald Rasmussen, an internal medicine specialist who helped spark the 1969 Black Lung Strike, died on Thursday. He was 87.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that throughout the 1960s, Rasmussen became involved in groundbreaking research about black lung, a sometimes-fatal disease caused by inhaling coal dust.

Black lung is a deadly disease caused by exposure to dust underground.
Department of Labor

The public is getting the chance to weigh in on a proposed rule that gives coal miners greater access to their health records.

The U.S. Labor Department's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs has made the proposed Black Lung Benefits Act rule available for public comment starting Wednesday.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / via Charleston Newspapers

  On February 24, 1928, physician Donald Rasmussen was born in Colorado. In 1962, he moved to Beckley to work at Miners Memorial Hospital. He quickly observed that many coal miners were suffering from severe breathing problems. As a result, he began dedicating a good portion of his time to studying black lung disease. At the time, the federal government denied the existence of black lung. But, the disease was rampant in the coalfields. And the numbers were on the rise due to the increased use of underground machines, which generated more dust than traditional hand-loading methods had. Rasmussen’s work showed that many miners had the disease, even when it didn’t show up in x-rays.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia Humanities Council

Black lung is a deadly disease caused by exposure to dust underground.
Department of Labor

Senator Jay Rockefeller co-sponsored legislation to address barriers and delays miners face when seeking benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Program.

Steven Middleton

This week's episode features Elizabeth Wells McIlvain helps employ 1,000 people in West Virginia, making Fiesta ware.And we learn that the number of jobs created by the Kentucky Bourbon Distillery industry has doubled in the last two years. We'll also explore some eccentric roadside attractions, including a Ventriloquist museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.

On West Virginia Morning, Jessica Lilly checks in with a victim of black lung whose lung transplant was approved after his story aired on West Virginia Public Radio in June.  And Chris Smithers sings the Mountain Stage Song of the Week.

Jessica Lilly

Former coal miner Robert Bailey was recently approved for a double lung transplant after waiting months for a black lung medical benefits claim to be approved. We spoke with Robert Bailey in June when he was waiting to hear if Patriot Coal’s insurance company would approve his appointment for a medical evaluation. 

Bailey’s doctor told him he needed a lung transplant in February of this year. Since then, he’s been working towards the waiting list. As we reported in June, Bailey had to cancel an evaluation appointment as Patriot Coal’s insurance company, Underwriters Safety and Claims, evaluated his request for coverage.  We caught up with Bailey at his kitchen table in Princeton about three months later to recap his journey.

Black lung is a deadly disease caused by exposure to dust underground.
Department of Labor

Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jay Rockefeller and plan to introduce legislation aimed at ensuring more fair treatment for coal miners with black lung disease as they pursue benefits claims.

The bill by the two coal-state senators comes after an investigation examined how doctors and lawyers, working at the behest of the coal industry, helped defeat the benefits claims of sick miners. The investigation was done by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News.

Senator Rockefeller introduced the Black Lung Health Improvements Act last year, but the new bill is expected to address issues uncovered in the investigation.

The Law Works - Black Lung

Sep 16, 2014

Black lung disease was thought by some to be a disease of the past. It is not. It is not treatable or curable. Federal law says that a coal miner should work his or her entire life without incurring any disability from black lung. Why isn’t that happening? We’ll talk about Black Lung on this episode of The Law Works.

Black lung is a deadly disease caused by exposure to dust underground.
Department of Labor

West Virginia University's School of Public Health is kicking off a series of monthly Public Health Dialogues this week. The first in the series is titled "Black Lung and Chemical Spills: 100 years of Poor Health in West Virginia."

Jessica Lilly

Landmark regulation by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration meant to lower the amount of dust in mines begins Friday. The first part is meant to fix the loopholes in the sampling process. Victims of black lung hope the new regulations give young workers a better future. 

msha.gov

The first part of the landmark regulation meant to prevent black lung disease takes effect Friday. This phase is meant to fix regulatory loopholes in the sampling process.


Jessica Lilly

 A retired coal miner who suffers from black lung disease has urged Congress to help clear a backlog of claims of fellow miners who have the disease. Princeton native Robert Bailey testified at the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace hosted a hearing Tuesday. The hearing focused on the struggles miners face while seeking black lung benefits. Lawmakers say the testimony on Capitol Hill was meant to do three things:

The Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued 38 citations as a result of an inspection of Rhino Eastern LLC's Eagle Mine 3 in Wyoming County.  MSHA says inspectors found conditions that put miners at risk of developing black lung disease and increased the potential for deadly explosions.

According to a news release issued Monday, inspectors arrived at the mine mid-morning on June 24, securing the mine’s phone systems on the surface that provide communications to the underground mining section. They traveled to the underground working section, where they arrived undetected. There, they determined that the mine operator failed to follow approved ventilation, methane and dust control plans in several locations of the underground mine. 

Wikimedia Commons

The federal government announced Wednesday a reduction in the amount of aid West Virginia’s eight black lung clinics will receive this year for operating and clinical costs. The announcement continues funding cuts for the state’s Black Lung Program for the third year in a row.

A coal miner fighting for black lung benefits,

Creatively bringing fresh food to a city in West Virginia,

And, finding good use of an environmental pollutant.

Coal miner fights for benefits. Black lung disease has a long, crippling history in Appalachia. A former coal miner shares his battle for medical compensation after being diagnosed with the disease. Jessica Lilly  reports.

 The West Virginia board of Education approves the purchase of land in Gilmer Co. to consolidate schools there but, it comes at a cost four times its appraisal. A miner fights for health benefits and his life while living with black lung disease. Also, more from Wheeling's Grow Ohio Valley.

Jessica Lilly

Robert Bailey was a coal miner for 36 years. He began in McDowell County and after it became too hard to breathe, he retired from a mine owned by Patriot Coal in Boone County.

“Mostly because of my health and my breathing," Bailey explained between oxygen puffs. "My black lung condition.  I got where I felt like I couldn’t perform the way that I felt like I needed to."

In 2009 Bailey filed for disability and black lung benefits. After a few years of evaluations, and paperwork, the U.S. Department Of Labor determined that he deserved a monthly payment and medical care, which is a feat in itself. All the while, Bailey was struggling just to breathe.

Pages