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BLACK LUNG: Benefits Denied

Errol Daniels | United States

Charlie Mullins began his career in coal mining in 1974. His breathing problems started in 2003 at which time a company physical exam showed he had pneumoconios, which is the severe form of Black Lung Disease. As of today, he has not been granted Federal Workman's Compensation benefits.

Coal mining has been part of the American Experience for over 150 years and is part of intergenerational folklore of Appalachia, yet the lived experience of the coal miner is one of neglect and despair.  A 2014 report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that the current rates of black lung disease are the highest they have been in 40 years.  Black lung is a preventable, occupational disease that is caused by prolonged breathing of coal mine dust.  According to NIOSH, more than 76,000 miners died from black lung between 1968 and 2010.  Nothing is being done to affect a decline in deaths, and sick miners have been denied disability benefits paid by coal companies because of a corrupt medical system and a law firm that withheld evidence that could have helped the miners.  Despite news editorials and official reports, little has been done to assist the victims.

Photographers are the eyes and conscience of society.  Through our vision, photographers show others the places we live in a new light and reveal our neighbors in a new way.  Our photographs illuminate the dark corners of our culture and our communities.  They record, for all time, the split second in which our camera’s shutter remains open.  Life recorded in the present becomes illuminated in the future.   …Natalie Fobes, Cofounder Blue Earth Alliance

My photography reveals the trials of humanity and the beauty that flows out of perseverance.  I want to pull my audience into the lives of the people I photograph – not just to learn about their distinctive experiences, but to also see the human similarities that cross through cultures.

The miners and their families open their homes and hearts to be so that I can become another voice for them.  Cheated out of federal workman's compensation benefits, the miners are patient even as a bill that will give them a lot of help is stalled because the bill cannot be heard in Congress.

These people deserve the benefits they are entitled to, and I hope my message reaches as many people as possible.






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