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- Review continues for troubled Johns Hopkins’ black lung program
Review continues for troubled Johns Hopkins’ black lung program2:15 pm, Apr. 15 |
A review of Johns Hopkins University's black lung program is ongoing, the university said Tuesday, adding that it has no new information about the program, which was suspended last year after an investigative report by Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity.
Hamby received a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for his work.
The head of the Johns Hopkins' unit certified to read X-rays for black lung rarely found the disease in its pathology reports, Hamby had found, in essence helping the coal industry defeat miners' claims for benefits.
JHU physician, Dr. Paul Wheeler, was one of many experts certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's b-reader program, which qualifies physicians to serve in national pneumoconiosis programs directed at coal miners and others who suffer from dust-related illness. Wheeler did not find the severe form of the disease in more than 1,500 cases he had reviewed since 2000, the CPI report found, but other doctors looking at the same X-rays found advanced stages in nearly 400 of the cases.
The university suspended its b-reader program in November, and said Tuesday via e-mail that the program would remain suspended until the review is complete. It did not provide a time frame for completion of the review.
Coal workers' pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung disease, is an occupational lung condition caused by inhaling coal dust, causing the walls of the air sacs to become inflamed and the lungs to stiffen. There is no known cure, so only the symptoms and complications can be treated, according to the American Lung Association.
Coal miners who become disabled from the condition as a result of their employment in or around U.S. coal mines qualify for federal benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act.
The CPI report found coal industry attorneys withheld evidence of black lung, and sick miners were often denied benefits as a result of the pathology reports. The report prompted a federal investigation into the black lung benefits program.
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