Monthly Archives: April 2014

Breathless and Burdened

The United States of America runs on energy (as well as Dunkin’), much of which is attained through coal. The most important uses of coal are for electricity, steel production, cement manufacturing and liquid fuel. Many men and women go into these mines so that we can keep living ours fast and efficiently.


However, as coal miners keep breathing in the thick, polluted air, problems begin to develop overtime. The most common illness to arise is known as black lung. Black lung is not just one disease, but rather an umbrella term covering any pulmonary disease that is caused from the inhalation and accumulation of coal dust. The workers are aware that they are at risk of getting black lung but continue to work under hazardous conditions so that they and their families have a life. This is evident in the case of Ted Latusek, who began working in the mines at the age of 20. Two decades later, Latusek began showing signs of disease. When he testified against the coal companies, he never got the benefits he deserved. Latusek’s case occurs repeatedly with many other coal miners that are told the scars on their lungs and breathing ailments are not due to labor, but rather from something else.

The issue of the coal industry refusing to recognize black lung as a disease dates all the way back to the 1930s. I was quite shocked by the opening paragraph in Chris Hamby’s, “A century of denial on black lung.” Seeing that picture of Congressmen Ken Hechler holding that bologna sausage as he compared it to black lung was insulting and in bad taste towards the coal miners that could possibly be at risk. It just goes to show that big companies are only concerned with big money and productivity, without any regard to the worker’s health. According to the National Mining Association, the average wage for all U.S. coal miners in 2012 was $81,46. This amount, unfortunately, is not enough for the transplants, check ups, CT scans, x-rays or any other necessary procedures workers may need.

Thanks to the Breathless and Burdened investigation, the black lung issue has been brought to the attention of many. It helped reveal how doctors and lawyers work on behalf of the coal companies in return for the large amounts of money. In one of the comments, a respiratory therapist wrote, “ One of the Drs. I worked with was paid to testify by Coal Mining companies to be an ‘expert witness’ to testify against the miners. His income was nearly a million dollars.” The accuracy of this statement is questionable but, if true it’s a horrible reality. Rather than paying off doctors and lawyers to shift the causes of black lung, coal industries should be investing in precautions such as making it mandatory for workers to wear face masks.


The coal industry will finally make changes thanks to the government. According to a recent Bloomberg article, “The Obama administration ordered a 25% cut in the levels of coal dust in US mines to reduce deadly black lung disease” to be effective starting August 1st. In addition, workers will also be equipped with a personal dust monitor that will allow miners to see how much coal dust exposure they are experiencing. These new regulations will cost operators less than one percent of industry revenue.



This is the first time I have ever heard of a Sea World whale killing a human being. Am I surprised? Not at all, I mean, it’s in the name – (killer)whale. Every animal should be living their lives in their own natural habitat. They shouldn’t be taken away from their families and forced into a circus for the amusement of us human beings.


It is so sad to see the whales being torn apart from their families. A lot of the workers involved with this, whether it be the fishermen or the Sea World employees, all say the same thing – it was their job. Although the trainers are provided with lessons on how to train the sea creatures, they have a very low background in marine biology, if any. They are performers, not biologists. The fact that they masturbate the whales for their sperm is just wrong. What’s more disturbing is the marine cowboys sinking dead whales to the bottom of the ocean in order to hide their bodies.


Watching this documentary reminded me of a similar issue happening locally in which human beings put animals to work – horse carriages in New York City. Beginning in 1935, this has been an ongoing tradition in the itinerary of many foreign visitors, as well as native New Yorkers, who have this romanticized idea of riding a horse drawn carriage. This is inhumane and an unnatural lifestyle of these easily-provoked animals. Horses should be roaming free on a field of grass, not slaving away on the hard cement surrounded by loud, ongoing traffic. Rather than using horses, carriages should be replaced with motorized carriages. According to a Huffington Post article, Mayor de Blasio said at a press conference with New York Class, an animal rights group, “We are in the biggest, densest urban area in North America. It is not a place for horses. They are not meant to be in traffic jams. It’s obvious. There are better alternatives.” Mayor de Blasio has yet to fix this issue since he was instated, but plans to.

There are many similarities between the living conditions of both the whales and the horses. They are forced to live in these cramped spaces which causes them emotional and physical distress. This, consequently, leads to lack of sleep needed to work the next morning. Also, the way the trainers feed the animals is done as an experiment. Most of the time they are only fed when they do something right or fed to the minimum point of keeping them standing and able to work.


According to a study by Newcastle University, “dolphins in close proximity to humans experience extreme stress preventing them from resting, feeding or nurturing their young.” Despite these findings, Sea World continues to allow park guests to interact with dolphins. I now lament the time I got to swim with dolphins. I was around 12 years old at the time on a family vacation in Mexico. It was fun but now that I know that it distresses them, I wouldn’t do it again.