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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

East Tennessee Alumnus Publishes Article on Resurgence of Black Lung Disease

Dr. David Blackley, a 2013 East Tennessee State University College of Public Health 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.”


[Photo: Dr. David Blackley]

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 percent among all {coal workers included in the surveillance program} and 0.33 percent 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 five year average of 3.23 percent “the highest level since the early 1970s.”

Dr. 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, Dr. 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, WV.