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We must act to curb black lung disease | PennLive letters

As a retired family doctor, I’ve seen the suffering faced by patients fighting lung disease. Coal Worker’s pneumoconiosis, or “black lung” has become an epidemic ... Younger coal miners are getting sicker than ever, and black lung is costing lives right now.


As we make the necessary transition from coal to cleaner power to tackle the climate crisis, it is our obligation to ensure coal workers aren’t left behind. That means we must act to curb the black lung crisis. Thankfully, we know the cause of this rise of black lung: miners are now cutting through more rock to get at coal, leading to more exposure to silica dust than ever before. Silica dust causes a more severe form of black lung than coal dust. That’s why coal miners have urged the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to enact legal limits on silica exposure for years.



MSHA finally listened this year and announced a modest silica safeguard – a step in the right direction that will save more coal miner lives. But apparently even this small step was too much for our Congressman, Scott Perry. Last week, he introduced legislation that would prevent this safeguard from being implemented. And, when asked about what this meant for coal miners, he asked a reporter, “What coal miners?”

This is disgraceful evidence that Perry would rather bailout a few coal executives than protect working Americans, and it must not stand. I urge our Senators to stop this provision before it can cost lives. Pennsylvania’s 4,400 coal miners and everyone here who cares about health before CEO profits deserve better than what Scott Perry is giving us.



Dr Robert Little, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Pa.

Originally published 11/28/23 in PennLive Letters to the Editor.

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