Government researchers trying to learn more about the risk are offering free health screenings to miners in four states.
CWP, or black lung, is serious but preventable. It is caused by breathing respirable coal mine dust.
"Early detection of black lung in coal miners through a screening program that is free and confidential is critical to protecting these workers from advancing to stages of the disease that are life-threatening," said Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The screenings are being done through state-of-the-art mobile units by NIOSH under its Enhanced Coal Workers' Health Surveillance Program. Progressive massive fibrosis, a more serious form of the disease, is more prevalent among miners working in underground mines with fewer than 50 workers. It is documented in clusters.
As part of the health surveillance program, NIOSH is offering the screenings to miners in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. The screenings include a work history questionnaire, chest X-ray, and spirometry testing. Blood pressure screening also will be offered.
NIOSH stressed that no individual information is publicly disclosed, including the names of participating miners. The results will be given only to the miner tested.
"The prevalence of coal workers' pneumoconiosis among long-term underground miners who participated in chest x-ray screening decreased from the 1970s to the 1990s," according to a NIOSH statement. "Although still much less than in the 1970s, the prevalence of CWP among U.S. coal miners has increased since the 1990s."
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March 18, 2013
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