Howard Berkes

Black Lung Update: Federal Researchers Seek Allies in Appalachia

Apr 5, 2017
Researchers present findings on the return of black lung disease.
Benny Becker / Ohio Valley ReSource

Federal health researchers are visiting health clinics and medical schools in the Appalachian coalfields to recruit allies in the fight a resurgence of black lung disease. The worst form of the disease may affect as much as 5 percent of experienced working miners in the region, and the researchers fear that rate could be even higher among retired miners.

Jessica Lilly

Coal mining has touched so many aspects of life in Appalachia. The coal industry has provided more than just jobs — it’s helped build towns, bridges and it’s even provided money for many Appalachians to go to college. We also have a deep cultural connection to coal and its history.

Still, there’s no denying the coal industry has changed the landscape of our mountains, and infected many miners with a deadly disease known as black lung.

Tyler Evert

Two years ago, an NPR investigation found that Jim Justice was among the top delinquent mine owners in the country, owing millions in federal mine safety fines.

NPR’s Howard Berkes decided to follow up on those findings and see just how far the Justice companies had come. What he found was not just that Justice now owed more money in fines than any other operator in the country, but that he also owed millions in federal, state and local taxes as well.

Paul Corbitt Brown

W.Va. Poet: “Appalachian Blackface” Story of 2014 Election Cycle: Have you ever heard the term ‘Affrilachian?’ It’s one poet Crystal Good uses to describe herself, an African American who grew up and lives in Appalachia. Good is a native of St. Albans, in West Virginia’s chemical valley. Good’s newest poem, “Appalachian Blackface,” premiered this fall at the Summit on Race Matters in Appalachia held in Charleston.

Courtesy of the Meade family

Perfect for your Thanksgiving road-trip: Fifty-one minutes of some great Appalachian stories, including: NPR's mine safety investigation continues. Where is the the mine with the highest delinquent fines in the U.S.? What happens when mines don’t pay their fines? And an update from the Appalachian Project, and how a financial adviser in Johnson City, TN decided to begin recording oral histories across Appalachia. These stories and more, in this week's episode of Inside Appalachia.

Courtesy of the Meade family

Perfect for your Thanksgiving road-trip: Fifty-one minutes of some great Appalachian stories, including: NPR's mine safety investigation continues. Where is the the mine with the highest delinquent fines in the U.S.? What happens when mines don’t pay their fines? And an update from the Appalachian Project, and how a financial adviser in Johnson City, TN decided to begin recording oral histories across Appalachia. These stories and more, in this week's episode of Inside Appalachia.

Southern Coal
Patrick Graham

Another West Virginia coal miner died this week, the fifth death this year. It's a tough reality in the coalfields where families regularly pray that loved ones will come home from a day's work, as they have for decades.

As incidents are reported, media outlets often share the amount of citations or delinquent fines of the mine where the accident occurred. But to what end?