Elisabeth Jensen: Strengthen Rules and Enforcement to Prevent Black Lung Disease

Elisabeth Jensen
Elisabeth Jensen

Elisabeth Jensen addressed a meeting of the United Mine Workers of America District 12 on Thursday just after the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a new report finding tragically that the number of black lung cases has returned to levels not seen since the 1970s.

“After declining to nearly zero in the late 1990s, the number of black lung cases has returned to levels not seen since the 1970s before major regulations were put in place to control the disease,” Jensen said. “The fact that rates had come down to such low levels demonstrates that we have the technology and the capacity to protect miners and save lives. The return to high levels of this debilitating and often lethal disease calls the good faith and honesty of the mining companies into question and underscores the need for strict regulation and enforcement to protect miners’ lives and health.”

Jensen noted that in August of 2013 federal regulators issued tougher regulations but her opponent, Representative Andy Barr, questioned the wisdom of tougher regulations on mining companies, saying. “Worker safety is a top priority, but not at the cost of putting that family in a very precarious financial situation.”

“Perhaps Andy needs to look up the meaning of the words, ‘top priority’ if he thinks he can follow it with a ‘but’ and then a threat to the miners job security.” Jensen said. “What it really shows is Andy Barr is on the side of the mining companies and not on the side of miners who organize to protect themselves. It is irresponsible to think one can be a friend of coal while at the same time questioning the need for tougher rules to prevent black lung disease in our coal mines. Our workers should not have to sacrifice their health for good paying jobs.”

Background:

Resurgence of a Debilitating and Entirely Preventable Respiratory Disease among Working Coal Miners: Coal miners in Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia are contracting serious cases of black lung disease at rates not seen since the early 1970s — just after preventive regulations were enacted, according to a study published Monday. Louisville Courier-Journal September 15, 2014.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr questions need for tougher rules to prevent black lung: Federal regulators have proposed changes aimed at protecting coal miners from the debilitating, often deadly disease called black lung, but sharp divisions over the rules were clear at a conference in Lexington on Thursday. Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington said many members of Congress have questions about the rules, including whether they would add burden and cost on coal companies that would far outweigh any benefit to miners. Lexington Herald-Leader August 22, 2014

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