>> America's hard hit coal country is seeing a minor recovery these days with rising exports. But also making a comeback, coal mining's dreaded companion, black lung.>> Well, this is one of the biggest problems right here.>> After dropping off sharply, the notorious disease caused by inhaling coal dust is on the rise again in Appalachia.
Doctors seeing new cases in record numbers. Reporting from West Virginia, Valerie Volcovici says there's a culprit behind black lung's return, automation.>> Because the mining process is more mechanized, there's more dust being kicked up. There's this finer particulate dust that is not seen to the human eye, but these miners are breathing it in.
And it's making some of these symptoms kind of accelerate rapidly.>> Black lung's toll is usually irreversible, leaving lifelong miners like Kenneth Adams struggling to breathe. One health worker here calls the resurgence a pandemic. And now a new danger, many black lung patients rely on a federal disability trust fund to pay steep medical bills.
But the trust fund, paid for by a tax on coal producers, is due to be cut in half next year unless Congress acts to renew it.>> At the end of the year, if Congress doesn't do anything to extend the current disability trust fund, coal companies will pay a fraction of what they're paying now into this trust fund.
And there will be less money available for coal miners who need to seek treatment for black lung.>> Coal companies are lobbying hard against renewing the tax for the miners' care, saying the payments are too high. President Trump has made much of his commitment to coal miners, but the White House has not yet said whether it will push Congress to renew the fund.
Meanwhile, black lung continues to take its toll, claiming the highest number of victims since the 1970s.>> Go on, take her home.