President Donald Trump signed into law a bipartisan amendment backed by Virginia Sen. Mark Warner aimed at improving the early detection of black lung, a common disease among coal miners.
The amendment requires the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to provide Congress with a report on how to improve participation in the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program, which offers free health screenings, and identify the barriers coal miners face in seeking treatment.
A study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Public Health found that, after black lung hit a low point in the 1990s, 1 in 5 of miners who have been working for at least 25 years have the disease. It’s struck Appalachia hard, with 20.6 percent of miners who have a long tenure dealing with the deadly, incurable disease.
The medical term for black lung is pneumoconiosis, and for coal miners it is often caused by inhaling dust that contains carbon or charcoal, sometimes turning the lungs black, according to the American Lung Association.
“Black lung is a deadly disease, but the earlier it’s detected, the better the outcomes are,” Warner said in a press release. “Underground coal miners help keep the heat and the lights on, but often at a significant cost to their own health.”