“After a couple of years, something changed. I began to see the type of disease that was only in the textbooks — this massive fibrosis, where the lung is basically destroyed. It’s nothing but black scar tissue. I was incredulous. And it was young people. It wasn’t the older miners. I thought, something is wrong here. We decided we’d better do some research.”

Dr. Edward L. Petsonk, head of the black lung program for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, on the recent resurgence of the disease, once a scourge among coal miners but virtually eliminated in the 1970s