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Surveys show rise in black lung among coal miners

In South Carolina and other states where the coal mining industry is still active, black lung disease is on the rise. This finding has surprised many people because at the end of the previous century, black lung diagnoses were at an all-time low with just over 30 cases reported. In 2016, according to an NPR survey of 11 black lung clinics, that number was 962. An ongoing investigation that began in the wake of that report has tallied over 1,000 more cases.

More recently, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health discovered 416 cases of complicated black lung in just three clinics. Another alarming fact is that the victims are comparatively younger than miners of previous generations who were diagnosed with the condition. It is still unknown how many out of the more than 50,000 coal miners in America have it.

Black lung disease develops when workers breathe in coal mine dust. This combination of coal and silica, a lung irritant, is produced as they cut down mining seams. It then enters the lungs, kills cells and inflames tissue. One reason for the increase may be that miners are cutting into thinner veins, which produce more silica. Another potential cause is that workers are working longer shifts. Retirements and layoffs may keep some miners from getting a health checkup.

Workplace injuries don't always involve slips, trips, falls and other sudden accidents. They could be the result of continual exposure to harmful elements like coal mine dust. When someone is injured on the job, he or she can speak with a lawyer about filing for workers' compensation. To receive these benefits, a worker doesn't need to prove that anyone was negligent. Workers' compensation usually covers medical expenses, lost wages and other losses. To get the maximum settlement, the lawyer can negotiate with the other side and even consider litigation.

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Smith & Griffith, LLP
1102 North Main Street
Anderson, SC 29621

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