Some West Virginia coal miners may be among those in several states who are suffering from a form of black lung disease that is caused by silica dust. More dangerous than coal dust, it is afflicting miners at a younger age, who are declining more rapidly than those with black lung disease caused by coal dust.
One reason for the pervasiveness of silica dust is that in recent decades, all the big seams were mined. As a result, there were only thinner seams left that had to be cut into. The resultant silica dust has led to an epidemic that is killing coal miners by the thousands. Moreover, it could have been prevented had government regulators acted in time. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended that the exposure levels to silica dust for coal miners be significantly lower in 1974, but there was no change until the 1990s.
People who suffer from black lung disease must restrict their daily activities. For example, one man must keep an oxygen tank with him at all times. He cannot wrestle with his grandson and must sit down every few minutes to rest when he walks. The same is true for another man who spent only 12 years in the mines and can only use his lawnmower for a few minutes at a time.
People who are suffering from black lung disease or other disabilities may be able to receive Social Security disability insurance benefits. SSDI can be critical for disabled people and their families since it provides for basic expenses. People may want to work with an attorney to apply for benefits since they are often denied on the first application and must appeal. Those who have already appealed and been denied might want to get legal assistance with the appeal process.