At 7 p.m. on Friday, May 31, longtime National Public Radio investigative reporter Howard Berkes will be at Appalshop to screen “Coal’s Deadly Dust,” his Frontline/ NPR documentary on the shocking rise in black lung disease among central Appalachia’s miners and the failure of industry and federal regulators to protect these workers.
The 30-minute film pairs Berkes with West Virginia filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, who won an Emmy for her 2017 documentary short “Heroin(e).” The screening will be followed by discussion with the reporter, disabled coal miners, and legal and medical experts. Members of area Black Lung Association chapters are especially encouraged to attend and join the discussion. This event is sponsored by Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center and Appalshop, and is free and open to the public.
Frontline and NPR worked together to investigate the rise of an aggressive form of black lung disease plaguing thousands of coal miners across Appalachia. “Coal’s Deadly Dust” features miners, many of them young men, who are suffering from the disease. “I was scared,” 47-year-old Danny Smith says in the film. “It was tough on all of us because my wife was scared that I was dying, and I was scared that I was dying, and I was.” Smith mined coal only 12 years, but he’s now sick with progressive massive fibrosis, the worse stage of black lung disease.
“The more I spoke with miners, the more questions were raised: How widespread was the outbreak? And why weren’t the federal mine safety regulators aware of it?” Berkes told NPR. He had spent the last six years in and out of the coalfields in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, meeting sick and dying coal miners and reporting their stories.
This event is sponsored by Appalshop, the media, arts and education center, and the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center. Based in Whitesburg, ACLC is a nonprofit law firm that fights for justice in the coalfields by representing coal miners and their families on issues of black lung and mine safety and by working with grassroots groups and individuals to protect the land and people from misuse and degradation caused by extractive industries. ACLC is one of the few law firms in the country providing legal services for black lung, mine safety, and environmental impacts free of charge.
Appalshop is located at 91 Madison Ave, Whitesburg, Kentucky. For more information, call ACLC at 606-633-3929 or Appalshop at 606-633-0108.