Coal Tattoo

A marcher holds a grim message during a black lung rally. Photographer and date unknown, courtesy of West Virginia and Regional History Collection, West Virginia University Libraries.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported this weekend:

Long linked to underground coal mining, black-lung disease also strikes miners who work above ground … Those are the findings of a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first assessment in a decade of black-lung disease in surface miners.

It found that 46 of 2,257 surface miners tested during 2010-11 had black lung, meaning roughly 2 percent had the potentially deadly respiratory condition caused by inhaling coal dust. Twelve had the most severe form, and the majority never worked underground.

The story continued:

And black lung was much more prevalent among surface miners in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia than those in other coal-mining states studied — with 31 of the 46 cases from the three Central Appalachian states.That works out to 3.7 percent of the Central Appalachian miners, compared with 2 percent of all surface miners and about 3.2 percent of underground coal miners nationally.

 You can read the CDC report for yourself here, and of course this is an issue the Courier-Journal has told us about before, especially in its 1998 series on black lung.