As early as 2007, US Department of Labor (DOL) noted a resurgence in deadly lung diseases among coal miners, including the most disabling form among younger miners. Most disturbing is that black lung disease is preventable.
We were told black lung had been nearly eradicated in the 1990s after safety laws were enacted in 1969, but in 2007, the DOL sent a warning to coal mine operators that preventive measures had been ineffective in protecting miners’ health. The letter offered workshops on controlling coal dust and encouraged miner participation in medical screenings.
However nothing really changed until 2013 when an ABC and Center for Public Integrity investigation found that a radiology department and one doctor in particular at Johns Hopkins were misrepresenting X-ray results, defrauding hundreds of black lung victims out of benefits, while taking coal industry kickbacks.
Now, says Dr. David Blackley of the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which regulates coal mine safety, has new rules he says will “lower miners’ dust exposures” and equip them with “wearable dust monitors." However, he adds, the rules must be effectively implemented, and he suggests that miners themselves should “speak up” if they see violations and also participate in the companies’ free X-ray programs.
But the burden for policing coal mine safety should not be placed upon the miners, nor should medical screenings be influenced by coal companies. Sign this petition to insist Congress pass laws demanding coal companies follow all regulations to protect miners from black lung disease, with harsh penalties for failing to do so.
To Members of Congress:
The ABC and CPI investigation and subsequent lawsuit provide evidence that suggest the resurgence of black lung disease noted by the labor department in 2007 may have had more to do with coal mine companies failing to follow regulations than those regulations being ineffective in preventing the disease.
If the coal companies were willing to commit fraud and pay off doctors at a highly reputable hospital to hide evidence of coal company failures at protection AND deny those harmed by those failures and their families the benefits they deserved, then how can the coal companies be trusted now to implement the new regulations that address changes in the way coal is being mined or to never again influence doctors paid to test for black lung disease?
It is up to Congress now to pass strict laws ensuring the protection of coal mine workers from this deadly and disabling disease that US Department of Labor describes as one that can “devastate a miner’s quality of life, create a heavy burden on the victim or his or her family, and lead to premature death.”
Therefore I and those who support this petition insist that you enact laws demanding that coal companies follow all regulations to protect miners from black lung disease, with harsh penalties for failing to do so.
Thanks for your time.