In 2011, now-retired NPR correspondent Howard Berkes teamed up with Chris Hamby, then of the Center for Public Integrity, for an investigation into the resurgence of the deadly coal miner’s disease black lung. Their editor then was Jim Morris, now executive director and editor-in-chief of Public Health Watch.
In the 12 years since, Berkes and his reporting partners at NPR and other news organizations have continued the investigation, with stunning revelations about a hidden epidemic of severe black lung disease, and the blatant failure of federal regulators to prevent thousands of cases of disease and death.
This summer, Berkes came out of retirement as federal regulators finally proposed a regulation that is supposed to control the exposure to silica dust that triggers severe black lung. His reporting for Public Health Watch, again edited by Morris, documented the proposal’s significant shortcomings, including the failure to make a strong case for action.
The story for Public Health Watch was expanded for NPR, with reporting from Louisville Public Media and Mountain State Spotlight, and has just been updated at NPR.
Berkes and the history of the black lung investigations were also the focus of the November 19 edition of NPR’s Up First morning podcast, The Sunday Story. The link to the Up First Sunday Story audio is also in the updated NPR story above.
As Berkes noted in the podcast episode, “Work should not be a death sentence.”