Coal miners are tested for black lung. Recently, the deadly disease has been discovered in younger miners and at more advanced stages. David Deal for NPR hide caption

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David Deal for NPR

Black-Lung Rule Loopholes Leave Miners Vulnerable

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Coal miner Lee Hipshire in 1976, shortly after emerging from a mine in Logan County, W.Va. at the end of his shift. At age 36, he had worked 26 years underground. A few years later, Lee took early retirement because of pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease. He died at 57. Courtesy of Earl Dotter hide caption

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Courtesy of Earl Dotter

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health sent a mobile testing unit to a fire station in Wharton, W.Va., in 2012 to screen coal miners for black lung disease. Howard Berkes/NPR hide caption

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Howard Berkes/NPR

Spike In Black Lung Cases Strains Federal Benefits Program

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Branham wears reflective mining pants in his home in Elkhorn City, Ky. Branham has advanced stage black lung and was forced to quit mining earlier this year. Benny Becker/Ohio Valley ReSource hide caption

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Benny Becker/Ohio Valley ReSource

Advanced Black Lung Cases Surge In Appalachia

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A memorial at the entrance to Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine represents the 29 coal miners who were killed in an explosion in 2010. Jeff Gentner/AP hide caption

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Jeff Gentner/AP

Coal miner Lee Hipshire in 1976, shortly after emerging from a mine in Logan County, W.Va., at the end of his shift. A few years later, Lee took early retirement because of pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease. He died at 57. Courtesy of Earl Dotter hide caption

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Courtesy of Earl Dotter