Some time ago, I wrote a post about coal miners and the danger of “black lung disease.” The assertion and content of the post was accurate and I stand behind it. Indeed, miners, even in modern coal mines do face an alarmingly high incidence of respiratory illness due to their work conditions.
However, one of the images and the caption I added were not accurate. Here is the image as it appeared:
The image in question is one which I found on several websites using Google’s image search. As it appeared in many non-cited examples, I believed it was likely an image that was either public domain or for which the original copyright owner was not attempting to control its distribution. I also believed it was a West Virginia miner, as it was cited as such on more than one page.
This does not seem to be the case. It has been brought to my attention that the miner in question is probably from Poland or elsewhere in Eastern Europe and that the image does not depict mine work as it normally is practiced in the US. Also, he is not wearing a two-way radio, but more likely has a battery pack for a helmet-mounted lamp. Thus, the picture could easily be decades old.
While I cannot verify the original source, I now accept that this is not a picture of a recent US miner and does not depict how coal mining typically occurs in the US. United States miners do indeed have much more protection than this, although it is not adequate to stop all cases of respiratory disease from occupational exposure to coal or rock dust.
I apologize for this error and for the sloppiness in verifying the image. I have been critical of the press for using inaccurate images before, and clearly I should not be doing so myself. I take full responsibility for failure to exercise appropriate skepticism and verify all information.
I would like to say that this will never happen again, but I can’t do that with 100% certainty. As a human, I am certainly prone to making such mistakes from time to time and I do not have the benefit of fact-checking editors. However, I will certainly make an effort to avoid future errors. Should I make one, please bring it to my attention in the comments or by e-mail.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 at 4:39 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Website, personal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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