Faces of Black Lung Transcript
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2008-131
[NIOSH logo appears]
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
[sound of heavy machinery]
[video of miners in vehicles on train tracks entering a dark mine]
( Miner #1 )
When I started working in the mine, I was
looking forward to earning a good living for may family, good benefits for when I retire, and good hospitalization was a main factor.
I never though I would get black lung.
[underground continuous miner footage]
( Miner #2 )
I was always trained to avoid injuries,an I should’ve paid as much attention to the dust
[FACES OF BLACK LUNG title appears]
[Picture of miners marching with picket signs]
(Narrator –Charles Taylor, NIOSH, PRL)
In the 1960s, coal miners began to call for protection from the burden of serious health problems and disabling injuries that were the result of mining. Following the tragic explosion at the Farmington #9 mine in 1968, [Farmington #9 disaster footage - smoke coming out of shaft ] the United States Congress passed, and President Richard Nixon signed into law, the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. That law provided a number of important protections for underground coal miners, including limits on dust exposure and establishment of a medical program called the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program. This health monitoring Program is operated by NIOSH , the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in Morgantown, West Virginia.
[miner participating in CWHSP program - looking at x-rays with Dr. Petsonk]
[camera, in x-ray room, near files]
Miners who participate in the Program receive health evaluations once every five years, at no cost to themselves. Chest x-rays can detect the early signs of and changes in coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (commonly called Black Lung Disease), often before the miner is aware of any lung problems.
In the 25 years since the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act became law, the proportion of miners with Black Lung Disease has gone down by about 90%. But the downward trend of this disease in coal miners has stopped. In the last 10 years, the rates of black lung cases have almost doubled.
( Dr. Petsonk )
Currently, about 42,000 men and women are working in our nation’s underground coal mines. Of course, the mining and production of coal is an important component of our national economy. Unfortunately, in the last decade, over 10,000 of these miners have died of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or what is commonly called Black Lung Disease. It’s an undeniable fact that many current underground miners are developing severe and advanced cases of Black Lung Disease.
As we continue to mine coal, it is important for us to better understand how to protect our miners from this deadly and devastating disease.
You’re about to hear from two men, both of whom developed severe cases of Black Lung in their fifties. You’ll see that Black Lung is not confined to old age. In fact, we’re seeing cases now in men as young as in their thirties. These men want to share their stories with you. It is our hope that by seeing how Black Lung changed their lives, you can prevent it from affecting yours.
( Miner #1 Chester Fike )
My name is Chester Fike. I’m 55 years old. My dad was a coal miner. He made a good living for our family, and that probably interested me to get into the coal mines more than anything else. And I wanted to make a good living for my family, so, to provide for them as much as I possibly could. And I’ve been a coal miner for 35 years. And 24 years, I’ve been a continuous miner operator. I’ve done a few years of dead-work, out-by work, but most of it’s been continuous miner worker. And my family is the most important part to me. And twenty-some years ago, I figured out that I had Black Lung. And that made a big impact on my family, my friends. And today, now, I can’t do what I used to do, my hobbies, hunting. I like, we raise Christmas Trees, and I can’t do what I did, and probably in another year I’m probably not even going to be able to do that. I was first informed by NIOSH, through their program that I had Black Lung. And from then on, you know, I’ve been getting doctor’s help.
It’s progressive Black Lung. And if it don’t stop in the next year, he’s going to put me on the waiting list for a lung and it’s about a year and a half waiting list. We’re hoping it’ll level-out before the year’s over with, but if it don’t be waiting for a lung.
The company I work for was real good about my Part 90. They brought me to the outside. And, they didn’t, you know, they could’ve give me a lot of trouble or even tried to get rid of me, but they brought me to the surface, and that’s where I’m at today.
It’s starting to have a big impact on my life, cause it’s hard for me to even take a walk with my family, you know, let alone doing any exercises. And each day it’s getting tougher to work at the job, to get my job done. And what I fear about most is my family, what they’re going to be, you know, four or five years down the road. What’s it going to be like for them.
My first 10, 15 years, that’s probably where I got in trouble. I thought I was invincible. I thought there was nothing that could stop me and that’s where you need to catch the younger generation, the first 10,15 years. It’s not good and if it could just get out to the younger generation. If we could just help one person, it sure would be worth it.
( Miner #2 Carl L. Bailey )
I was a coal miner for 28 years. My coal mining started when I was…1971. The reason was I got out of the Army. I’d been in the Army 3 years and the government was paying half of our salary at the time, and we could…the company’s was hiring.
My first experience at really getting a clean mines to work at was a ...I worked at a mine on top of a mountain what’s called Hill Top Mountain Mining, it’s not much cover over it, but it’s mine-able. It was 10 ft high. The miner had a big scrubber on it and it worked very, very good, very good.
That job didn’t last though; six weeks and they transferred me to their other mine which was only 28” high. That’s where my troubles, I guess, at the end of my career really built-up on me….The 28” was mine-able with the miner that I was operating. It had a 28” head on it. But the other equipment, power center and pin-up machine had to have clearance. So, that’s when we started cutting 10” of rock. I never thought about the x-rays. I never thought about taking care of myself. It was ahh…taking care of the family, was the big job.
We had to take physicals for the mines, for insurance purposes. And that’s, after 26 years, I actually found out that I had severe silicosis and Black Lung.
The lungs has wore my heart out. I’ve ahh…got congestive heart failure and ahh…the one side is good, but the other side is where my battle’s at. Now, I’m battling two diseases. And it’s rough.
The impact that it had on my family…it’s been devastating. I don’t get to travel. I don’t get to play with the grandkids. I don’t get to be with my son and my daughters the way I want to be, on trips what-have-you with the family and family outings. It’s hard to go to a family reunion when you’re sitting there with a tank of oxygen and ain’t nobody want to talk to you cause they know you can’t talk. You run out of oxygen pretty fast.
My advice to all young sisters and brothers that’s going into coal mining...take care of yourself. Once a year x-rays and follow them-up and when you get…tell you it’s bad, get out. That’s just the way life is, you gotta take care of yourself. …I’m just 58 and this is the way it is, and it’s gonna be until something happens.
Think about your family. Think about the things you want to do. And always remember : What’s on your face you can wash-off, but, what’s on your lungs, you can’t. And that’s the #1 thing. So, be safe and take care of yourself.
( Narrator, Charles Taylor, NIOSH, PRL)
With the support of MSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, NIOSH is helping to protect coal miners from this devastating Black Lung Disease by operating a Mobile Health Screening Program.
[ECWHSP Mobile Unit traveling on highway]
[U.S. Hot Spots Map]
This Mobile Unit is traveling to mining regions around the United States. Miners are notified in advance about the specific locations where the Mobile Unit will be stationed and are encouraged to make appointments to participate in the health screening process. These programs protect the health of the miners only if they participate.
[Various miners performing health tests]
[Miner receiving chest X-ray]
Miners can only develop Black Lung Disease if they breath in too much dust. Each miner needs to work to minimize their exposure to dust.
[underground continuous miner footage]
[heavy machinery sounds]
Coal operators are required under the law to adhere to the dust standards. Today’s mining industry has the necessary tools to control respirable dust. If each miner insists that effective dust controls are conscientiously applied, and dust levels are accurately monitored, we will be one step closer to a time when miners and their families will no longer have to suffer the crippling effects of Black Lung Disease.
[sounds of miners talking and Miners at end of shift – coming off elevator]
Black Lung can be stopped. But this will only happen when every person who works in the coal industry subscribes to the goal of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act:
“The first priority and concern of all in the coal mining industry must be the health and safety of its most precious resource – the miner.”
( Miner #2 Carl L. Bailey )
My advice to all young sisters and brothers that’s going into coal mining...take care of yourself. Once a year x-rays and follow them-up.
And always remember : What’s on your face you can wash-off, but, what’s on your lungs, you can’t.
On January 18, 2008, just seven months after conducting this interview, Carl Bailey died from complications relating to coal workers' pneumoconiosis.
He is sadly missed by his family and friends who say his faith carried him through the years of sickness and pain.
[Fade to black]
- Page last reviewed: June 6, 2014
- Page last updated: June 6, 2014
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