Coal’s Deadly Dust | S37 E6 | FRONTLINE | PBS | Official Site

Coal miners across Appalachia are dying from a resurgence of severe black lung disease. But could this epidemic have been prevented?
This is one of many tough questions grappled with in Coal’s Deadly Dust, a new investigation from FRONTLINE and NPR that premieres tonight on PBS.
NPR Correspondent Howard Berkes was reporting on the disease when he received a tip about an outbreak of severe black lung — a disease that epidemiologists thought was nearly gone. Berkes met with a radiologist whose clinic was so overwhelmed with such cases, he turned to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), for answers. The NIOSH researchers found it difficult to believe what the radiologist had seen.
From 2011 to 2016, federal researchers at NIOSH had counted only 99 cases of this incurable disease nationwide; however, FRONTLINE and NPR identified more than 2,000 in Appalachia alone in the same time frame. In most cases, silica dust, not coal dust, likely played the key role.
Silica dust is known to be nearly 20 times more toxic than carbon-based coal dust — but as the film reveals, federal regulators and the mining industry never treated the lethal dust as a unique threat.
“It’s pretty difficult to hear the miners just working so hard to catch their breath and to know that the reason for that is those exposures at work that we absolutely know how to prevent,” Celeste Monforton, a former top official at the Mine Safety and Health Administration says. She adds, “It’s abundantly clear…this problem really is a silica problem…this is such a gross and frank example of regulatory failure.”
And while the mining industry and federal regulators both say they’ve made progress in protecting miners, there still is no plan for tougher regulation of silica at coal mines – and there are still more than 50,000 coal miners working nationwide.
Also this hour, FRONTLINE presentsTargeting Yemen. Correspondent Safa Al Ahmad offers a report from on the ground in Yemen, where she investigates the escalation of the deadly U.S. fight against Al Qaeda and its lasting impact on Yemeni civilians.
Coal’s Deadly Dust premieres tonight at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST, followed byTargeting Yemen. Watch on PBS stations (check local listings) or online.

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