WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today secured an amendment to the final Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS) Appropriations Bill to boost participation in federal programs that detect and treat black lung disease among coal miners. The current participation rate in the federal screening program is about 35 percent among active miners and even lower among non-active miners. Increasing participation in the program could help save lives by early identification of black lung and give us a better understanding on how to treat black lung. The final appropriations package has been agreed to by the House and the Senate. Now that the bill has passed the Senate, it now heads to the House for final passage before heading to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Brown introduced the amendment to the bill alongside Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Bob Casey (D-PA). 

“Ohio miners put their health at risk to power our country. Finding ways to increase outreach and miner participation in the screenings that help prevent and manage conditions like black lung is the least we can do,” said Brown.

This amendment would require the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to submit a report to Congress on potential barriers to participation in the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program. The amendment would require the following information in the NIOSH report:

  • Includes a description of what active and non-active coal miner populations are currently covered by the CWHSP.
  • Identify and describe potential barriers that limit active and non-active coal miner participation in the CWHSP.
  • Describe current and/or planned outreach efforts to improve participation of active and non-active coal miners in periodic health surveillance.

According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, cases of black lung have significantly increased and are at a 25 year high in Appalachian coal mining states.

Brown also recently announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) NIOSH was in Ohio to host black lung screenings for miners across Southeast Ohio. NIOSH’s Mobile Occupational Safety and Health Unit visited various locations throughout Ohio, where miners were able to stop by and get a free health exam that included a chest radiograph, a breathing test and blood pressure screening.

Brown has been fighting to protect Ohio miners’ safety and healthcare by introducing legislation to ensure miners affected by Black Lung receive the benefits they deserve.

In December, Brown led his colleagues in urging Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta to protect mine safety and miners’ health by protecting a recent rule aimed at limiting miners’ exposure to respirable coal mine dust. This came after the rule was listed among a number of rules to be re-examined for elimination.

Brown has also conducted roundtables and met with retired Ohio miners, as he has been fighting to protect their hard-earned healthcare coverage and retirement security. In January, Brown reintroduced his bipartisan bill, the Miners Protection Act, with U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). Their bill would address the shortfall in the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA) 1974 pension plan and make healthcare coverage permanent for retirees. Brown was able to secure his provision in the government spending bill in May 2017.