Senator Rockefeller speaks in Bluefield on Black Lung disease
Senator Jay Rockefeller addressed a crowd in Bluefield on Thursday to push for Black Lung protections.
He's seeking input from experts, advocates, miners and their families who all seek to end Black Lung disease. 59News spoke with Rockefeller and families of those affected with the disease.
"2,000 West Virginia miners have died from Black Lung over the past 10 years. It's a totally preventable disease, that doesn't mean its curable but it is preventable. You prevent it by not having the dust in the air in the first place," the Senator told us
People shared with 59News how black lung affects the ones they love.
"My husband had black lung silicosis. He was 60 years old and worked in the coal mines for 35 years. That's all he every really knew. His dad worked in the coal mines and he started real young and wanted to make a living for us," widow Theresa Fike said.
"My grandfathers were coal miners, my husband is a coal miner, it's very important to me to see they get what they deserve. It's a hard life, they work hard, not a lot of people would do what they do on a daily basis," said nurse Debbie Johnson.
As a nurse, she sees first hand the deadly effects Black Lung can have on coal miners.
"It's a struggle to breathe and do daily activities, just being able to shower and get dressed and put shoes and socks on," Johnson said.
Senator Rockefeller told 59News exactly what he is doing to make sure progress is made in preventing this disease.
"I wrote a very strong letter to the President. It actually had some effect. It sent it to the Office of Management and Budget and if they approve it, dust levels will be cut in half and the world will change," Rockefeller concluded.
Rockefeller's efforts on Black Lung are third in a series of bills he's introduced this year on behalf of West Virginia's coal miners.