August 23, 2018

Manchin and Capito Introduce Legislation to Improve Early Detection of Black Lung

Washington, D.C.  – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced legislation to boost participation in federal programs that detect and treat black lung disease among coal miners.

“Coal miners sacrifice a lot, including their own health, to keep our lights on, heat our homes, and power our businesses. Black lung cases are at a 25-year high and with today’s technology and our knowledge of this disease, that is simply unacceptable. Our amendment will make sure more miners participate in early detection so we can catch it and treat it quicker. The health and safety of our miners should always be our number one priority and I will be fighting for this amendment to be included in the final spending bill,” Senator Manchin said.

“West Virginia coal miners have worked tirelessly for decades to keep industries and communities in this country moving,” Senator Capito said. “These resources dedicated to the early detection of black lung could be life-saving for thousands of hardworking West Virginians. Amazing work is being done in this area by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Respiratory Health Division in Morgantown, and I am honored to help that work continue and provide assistance to those who have given so much to our state.” 

According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, cases of black lung are at a 25-year high in Appalachian coal mining states, with as many as one in five underground coal miners in the region having evidence of black lung. In order to address this worsening public health crisis, Senators Manchin and Capito have filed an amendment to the defense, labor, health and education spending package currently under consideration on the floor of the U.S. Senate aiming to improve the participation rate of coal miners in federal health surveillance programs that detect and treat black lung. Specifically, the amendment requires the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to submit a report to Congress on ways to boost outreach efforts to increase participation in the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program (CWHSP) and to identify barriers that deter miners with black lung from accessing treatment. CWHSP is a national program that offers free health screening services to coal miners, including chest X-rays, lung function testing, respiratory health assessment questionnaires, and extended health surveillance. However, the current national participation rate in CWHSP is approximately 35 percent among active miners and even lower among retirees.