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College of Public Health

Alumnus Blackley Publishes Article on Resurgence of Black Lung Disease

David Blackley, a 2013 DrPH Graduate in Epidemiology, has published an article in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine on "Resurgence of a Debilitating and Entirely Preventable Respiratory Disease among Working Coal Miners."  Co-authors on the paper include fellow National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health employees Cara Halldin and A. Scott Laney.

The report, which has received wide-spread national media attention, reports on 40 year trend of coal workers' pneumoconiosis including progressive massive fibrosis (PMF).  According to the paper, "Just 15 years ago, PMF was virtually eradicated, with a prevalence of 0.08% among all {coal workers included in the surveillance program} and 0.33% among active underground miners with at least 25 years of mining tenure." By 2012, the prevalence of PMF among a group of long-tenured underground miners in central Appalachia had reached a 5 year average of 3.23% "the highest level since the early 1970s."

Blackley and his co-authors report that this represents a remarkable failure of prevention. "Despite readily available dust control technology. . . recent findings suggest dust exposures have not been adequately controlled and that a substantial portion of U.S. coal miners continue to develop PMF . . . . we believe that expanded medical surveillance is an important part of ensuring success in efforts to protect U.S. coal miners from this deadly but entirely preventable disease."

After graduating from ETSU, David Blackley entered the prestigious and competitive Epidemic Intelligence Service program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He was selected to complete his EIS work at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a branch of the CDC located in Morgantown, West Virginia.

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