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May 7, 1982

'Black lung' takes toll in suffering, not death

JAMA. 1982;247(17):2332. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320420006002

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Although coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP) has been found in 70% to 80% of subjects in the ongoing National Coal Workers Autopsy Study (NCWAS), it has been considered as the underlying cause of death in only 4.2%. Thus, while there can be no doubt that CWP, or "black lung," is prevalent in the coal mining population, it seems more likely to cause pain and suffering than actual death.

The ten-year NCWAS experience was presented at a recent international conference on occupational lung disease in Chicago sponsored by the American College of Chest Physicians. The report was given by Francis H. Y. Green, MD, a pathologist with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at Morgantown, WVa.

The voluntary autopsy study, Green said, was initiated under a 1969 law intended primarily to provide services to survivors of miners who were seeking to establish evidence for black lung benefit claims. Since the