Friday, August 24, 2012

Coal mining is dirty business all around

Take a look at these young men loading coal into trucks at a rail station in Jammu, India.--not a one wearing safety gear or masks. How many generations has it been since doctors first identified black lung disease? It was diagnosed as far back as 1822--nearly 200 years! Black lung disease is caused by inhaling coal dust; it is debilitating, often fatal, & there is no cure. According to substantial data, people in coal mining communities have increased risk for many chronic illnesses, skin disease, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as emphysema (that means they can’t breath), fibrosis & necrosis of lung tissue, high blood pressure, high mortality rates. All these health threats to people with little access to health care, eating inadequate diets, & living in poor housing conditions! This isn’t just a problem with coal mine operations in Jammu, India but among coal miners all over the world--& the reckless disregard for their lives is getting worse. In the US, black lung disease kills over 1,000 coal miners a year; in China it kills over 6,000 miners a year. And those are probably underestimates! Black lung cases in the US have more than doubled in the past 15 years because safety laws have been strip mined in the interests of increasing production. Coal mining isn’t just dirty energy; it’s dirty business all around when you subject millions of young workers to health problems & premature death. Wielding the scientific data as a weapon, unions need to do their job & mobilize their ranks to insure safety protections are a first priority. Keep in mind, the coal operators in India just got a $34 billion windfall from the Indian government when it allocated licenses without auctioning them. So they’re rolling in dough & more than able to provide these young men with safety gear.  (Photo by Jaipal Singh/EPA)

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