As lead and zinc were the primary minerals mined in the tri-state area, those working in the mines were exposed to tons of toxic dust every single day. At the time, silicosis and tuberculosis were the top two diseases that miners dealt with. Symptoms of silicosis include shortness of breath, a persistent cough, and difficulty breathing. Those who develop silicosis are put at a higher risk of getting tuberculosis; and in 1912, the death rate for tuberculosis in Jasper County was “over 200 per 100,000 residents.” The Public Health Service conducted a report in Jasper County around the same time and found that 30 percent of miners had a form of silicosis, the worst cases having worked in the mines for over 15 years. They also found the work conditions for workers were horrendous and put workers and their families at heightened risk for developing disease. Popular news press and radio stations at this time began calling the tri-state area “America’s plague spot” due to the large number of diseased deaths due to toxic living conditions.
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