For many people, the Appalachian coal mine communities never ended.
ETSU’s College of Public Health held its first talk for this academic year’s Leading Voices in Public Health Lecture Series this past Tuesday. Alumni Dr. David Blackley, who is currently working with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health with the Center of Disease Control and Protection, and alumnus Dr. James B. Crum and Dr. Scott Laney gave a speech about the resurgence of Black Lung Disease within the Appalachian coal mining community.
The lecture, which lasted about an hour, discussed everything there is to discuss about PMF. Some of the main points of discussion were the effects of black lung disease, the impact it has on families and the impact black lung has on society. Blackley also talked about how miners and their health shape the American economy.
One instance that proved how important miners are is the Coal Miner Strike of 1902, where miners went on strike for higher wages. At this time, coal was the main source of power so this particular strike crippled the United States. Today, miner health and safety is just as important as it was in 1902. With coal being responsible for approximately 30 percent of all power used in the United States, to disregard the working conditions that coal miners are subjected to is to threaten the economic state of the country.
One of the audience members noted how hard it was to deal with black lung disease in the life of a loved one.
“It is really tragic to think that something that is hurting so many people is happening so close to home. Some of us probably know someone who is effected by PMF (Black Lung Disease),” said an audience member.
Aside from showing pictures of the lungs of actual coal miners, Blackley gave real life accounts of young coal miners being diagnosed with PMF. One of the more severe cases discussed was that of Mackie Branham. Branhan was 36 at his diagnosis and according to the speaker, could not walk 60 feet without needing to stop to catch his breath. Near the end of the presentation, a quote from Branham was shown.
“The more I talk, the more I get out of breath. I can no longer provide for my family,” Branham said.
The end of the lecture was a call to action and emphasize how important it is to be aware of the dangers of PMF and to spread the word. For those who are concerned about PMF, please see a doctor for consultation.