Black Lungs: Hidden Tolls of Coal Mining

Coal mining in China is a deadly job, with regular accidents killing a huge number of miners each year. But even those miners who survive risk a number of other health issues, including black lung disease. Asia Society’s China Green has produced a special feature about the hidden costs of China’s coal economy:

Coal makes up 70% of China’s primary energy consumption and has powered its economic engine for decades. But there are hidden costs behind this dirty fuel, both to human health and to the environment. At least a quarter million Chinese have died from coal mine accidents in China since 1949, according to official statistics. Those who do survive are hardly unscathed. Many suffer from occupational hazards like the fatal black lung disease and maimed limbs. Some estimates put the external environmental cost from coal mining at 7% of China’s gross domestic product. In short, what consumers pay for electricity and other forms of energy in China is hugely subsidized and does not account for these true, often hideous, costs associated with the complete cycle of coal usage. When miners’ lungs turn black, it is a grim reminder that coal is much more than just a source of energy.

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