Nat Wilkins

Nat Thomas Wilkins on his front porch
Nat Thomas Wilkins worked in a cotton mill in Opelika, Ala. for 27 years. Every day, Wilkins inhaled millions of microscopic cotton dust particles that clogged his lungs. The cotton company never informed Wilkins of what it had suspected for years - mill workers like him were in danger of contracting byssinosis, a preventable work-related lung disease commonly known as "brown lung." Since the case ended in 1983, federal regulations now control the level of dust to which cotton workers may be exposed and require textile companies to provide regular medical screenings.