In this brief, author Aysha Bodenhamer describes how prevention failures in the coal mining industry have resulted in the resurgence of black lung disease. Caused by the chronic inhalation of coal and silica dust, black lung is progressive, incurable, life-altering, and fatal. Despite it being a preventable disease, black lung is resurgent among coal miners in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. Fieldwork including in-depth interviews with miners, clinic workers, black lung attorneys, government employees, and lay advocates, and a case-study analysis of two black lung clinics in southwest Virginia inform this analysis. These data reveal that coal operators routinely evade dust regulations. Once miners are diagnosed with black lung, coal companies have made obtaining black lung compensation difficult for miners and fight the tax that supports the Black Lung Benefits Trust Fund. Miners are not well informed of the dangers of coal dust and black lung prevention. In fact, many miners avoid black lung testing because of fear for their jobs. Bodenhamer identifies policy and practice opportunities to ensure that safe work environments are provided for all mine workers.


Carsey School of Public Policy

Publication Date

Summer 7-28-2020


National Issue Brief No. 149


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2020. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.





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