The most distinctive causes of death in Kentucky over the first decade of this century were occupational breathing diseases such as black lung disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The most common causes of death in just about every state are heart disease or cancer. The new analysis looks past those common conditions, and picks out the most unique cause of death in each state. For Kentucky, as well as West Virginia and Pennsylvania, that cause is “pneumoconiosis and chemical effects.”
In Kentucky, 449 people died from those causes between 2001 and 2010. That’s a lot more than some other states with distinctive diseases, like 22 syphilis deaths in Louisiana over that time period, or 14 deaths from “other nutritional deficiencies” in New Hampshire. But it’s also dwarfed by the more than 15,000 Floridians who died from HIV, or more than 18,000 in New Jersey who died from septicemia.
Black lung disease is predominantly found in coal-mining states and it’s fatal. The condition is entirely preventable, but recently, there’s been a resurgence. Black lung is currently at levels not seen since the early 1970s.