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Black Lung Still Ravages Appalachia

The Branham Family
The Branham Family

Back in March, Inside Appalachia aired a report about a rise in the number of chronic black lung cases. Since then, NPR’s ongoing investigation uncovered an additional 1,000 cases of the worst form of black lung disease in Appalachia. 

That brings the NPR count of progressive massive fibrosis to nearly 2,000 cases in the region, all of which were diagnosed since 2010.

Also since then, Congress has been on an almost constant roller coaster of debate surrounding the future of health care in our country. For many miners who are suffering from black lung, this issue is still as relevant today as it was back when we first aired this report. So we’re going to revisit this story and the voices of those who are most affected by this disease.

Coal mining has touched so many aspects of life in Appalachia. The coal industry has provided more than just jobs — it’s helped build towns, bridges, and it’s even provided money for many Appalachians to go to college. We also have a deep cultural connection to coal and its history.

Still, there’s no denying the coal industry has changed the landscape of our mountains and infected many miners with a deadly disease known as black lung.

On this episode of Inside Appalachia, we look at this part of coal’s legacy, and the complicated, often broken, or mismanaged system that’s meant to help miners and their families.

Just how massive is this problem in Appalachia? Well, the answer is complicated, as a 2016 NPR investigation discovered.

Do You Have a Story About Mining?

We’d love to hear from you. Send us a Tweet @InAppalachia or send us an email at feedback@wvpublic.org

Inside Appalachia is produced by Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Glynis Board edited our show this week. Our executive producer is Jesse Wright


Copyright 2017 West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jessica Lilly
Jessica Lilly covers southern West Virginia for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program and during afternoon newscasts.
Roxy Todd
Roxy Todd is a reporter and co-producer for Inside Appalachia and has been a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting since 2014. Her stories have aired on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Marketplace. She’s won several awards, including a regional AP Award for best feature radio story, and also two regional Edward R. Murrow awards for Best Use of Sound and Best Writing for her stories about Appalachian food and culture.