CDC shares new research: For miners, death rate from lung disease is higher than ever before

February 27, 2023

Media Contact:
Trey Pollard, 202-904-9187,

APPALACHIA — On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared a new study that sounds a clear alarm bell to leaders across the country about the dire need for a renewed focus on safeguarding the health of coal miners across the country.

The study, completed by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, found that not only do modern coal miners have higher mortality rates from lung diseases like black lung and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than average American workers, but the risk has only worsened over time. In fact, researchers indicate that modern miners are at a greater risk than their predecessors in the mines decades ago. In addition, the research found that miners in the Central Appalachian states of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia are the most at risk.

In response, advocates for miners with black lung released the following statements:

“Safeguards to protect miners from disabling disease haven’t kept pace with research or the risks miners face. We’ve known for far too long that the standards to protect miners from toxic dust haven’t been strong enough. Miners are having to cut through more rock than ever before to get to coal, and therefore have to breathe in more dangerous silica dust that causes deadly lung disease. Though long overdue, we’re glad that MSHA is finally on the brink of releasing a draft rule that will be essential to reduce mortality from lung disease caused by silica dust. We are all eagerly awaiting an opportunity to provide public input on the draft rule and to continue the effort to protect the health of miners across the country.” — Rebecca Shelton, Director of Policy and Organizing, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center

“The evidence is clear that the work done by coal miners is in many ways more dangerous than ever before. We need unprecedented action to ensure they have the resources needed to protect their health and well-being after they leave the mines. The least that coal CEOs and government officials can do is update and protect the black lung benefits system so that miners can access the benefits they were promised, and so that the benefits paid out adapt to changes in the cost of living and inflation. Miners are being asked to sacrifice their health to help power our country — we ought to be doing everything possible to protect them and to secure a strong safety net for them and their families.” — Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director, Appalachian Voices