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Black lung report encourages more monitoring, research

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has published a new report that may be of interest to Louisiana miners. Black lung disease, caused by the inhalation of coal mine dust, has long been a problem with people in the mining industry. Despite advances in technology, there has been a steady increase in black lung cases across the nation.

The report goes into the ways that companies can reduce exposure to respirable coal dust. This could be done after a careful monitoring of the mine via a continuous personal dust monitor. However, these monitors have several issues. For instance, they may include limestone and other materials in their measurements. In addition, cost and size may keep many miners from wearing them.

Not all black lung cases are monitored because many workers choose not to undergo testing for the condition. The report thus encourages more workers to participate in a voluntary medical surveillance system.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration agrees with the conclusions of the report; although, its task is to enforce rules. MSHA notes, moreover, that limiting exposure is not the sole way to address the issue of black lung. In the past, it has advocated mandatory X-ray surveillance programs and even non-traditional controls like airstream headgear.

Workers who develop black lung may be reimbursed for medical expenses, a percentage of lost wages and even short- or long-term disability leave. All they have to do is file for workers' compensation. If a claim is denied, legal counsel could help a worker mount an appeal.

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