PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Despite free government programs, only about 16 percent of Kentucky miners get screened for black lung. That's about half the national average for coal-mining states.
The Courier-Journal of Louisville reports that many miners avoid screenings out of fear of losing their jobs.
Miners must share their black-lung diagnosis with their bosses almost immediately if they want to receive state benefits. And if miners are found to have black lung, there's often no safe place for them to work in a mine. That leaves many worried that their employers would find reasons to let them go.
Black lung death rates in Kentucky rose 38 percent in the six years ending in 2004, as they dropped in other major coal-mining states.