"Black-Lung Rule Loopholes Leave Miners Vulnerable" - 10 July 2012
In a joint investigation by Sandra Bartlett, Howard Berkes and Andrea de Leon of NPR and Chris Hamby of The Center for Public Integrity, Berkes looked at the resurgence of black lung disease among coal miners, particularly in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky. He described how the disease is afflicting younger miners and advancing more quickly to the worst stage of the disease. The two-part series discussed how existing regulatory limits on coal dust are inadequate to protect miners from the increasing levels of silicon dioxide being released as more powerful equipment is used to mine narrow seams of coal. Lauran Neergaard, a medical writer for the Associated Press, called the series "a compelling look at the resurgence of an epidemic once thought solved — complete with the science to show why the solution didn't last." Dan Vergano, senior science editor at NationalGeographic.com, said the entry was "a compelling portrait of the lives of people hurt by the failure of regulatory science." Berkes said his interest in the resurgence of black lung stems from his extensive reporting about the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster in 2010 and the medical examiner findings that the victims of that disaster had an extraordinarily high rate of the disease, including younger miners with relatively little tenure underground. "Winning the 2013 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award bolsters our belief that our findings are critically important to the thousands of coal miners who will continue to suffer horribly from black lung if industry and government fail to protect them," Berkes said.