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CDC examines lung disease among surface coal miners

June 20, 2012

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Atlanta – Surface coal miners may develop coal workers’ pneumoconiosis and silicosis even though the conditions typically are associated with underground coal mining, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, published in the June 15 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is based on chest radiographs of 2,328 surface coal miners taken through NIOSH’s surveillance program in 2010-2011.

Two percent of miners with less than a year of surface mining experience had CWP, also known as “black lung” disease, while 0.5 percent had advanced CWP, also called progressive massive fibrosis. Many of the workers had never worked underground. Additionally, a large amount of the miners appeared to have silicosis, a lung condition caused by inhaling crystalline silica.

Surface coal miners account for 48 percent of coal miners, but are not included in the federal surveillance program for CWP and have not been studied since 2002, the report stated.

CDC advised operators to ensure worker exposure to respirable dust and silica falls below recommended levels.

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