Research published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society highlights disparities in the likelihood of #Indigenous coal miners qualifying for medical benefits due to black lung disease. The study titled "Racial Differences in Respiratory Impairment, Pneumoconiosis, and Federal Compensation for Western U.S. Indigenous Coal Miners," conducted by a team from National Jewish Health, revealed that Indigenous coal miners are more prone to developing disabling black lung disease and respiratory impairments.
However, using the current federal spirometry standards, these miners are less likely to qualify for compensation benefits compared to non-Indigenous miners. The study, based on voluntary medical surveillance data from 2002-2023 in an area with a significant population of Indigenous coal miners, found that Indigenous miners had a higher prevalence of black lung and lung function impairment with age compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts.
Black lung disease, also known as #coal worker's pneumoconiosis, is a respiratory illness that can manifest years after initial exposure to coal mine dust. The severity of the disease can be influenced by various factors, including dust control measures, early disease detection programs, choice of lung function standards, and other risk factors like smoking.
Research suggests that the existing federal spirometry standards might disqualify Indigenous miners from receiving necessary compensation.
"Using the DOL-mandated Knudson (1976) spirometry standard rather than an Indigenous-specific standard, Indigenous miners would not qualify for federal compensation," the researchers write. "Based on the study findings, more efforts are needed to understand and prevent black lung and other respiratory diseases affecting Indigenous workers."
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