Federal agencies Workplace exposures Respiratory conditions Coal Mining_Oil_Gas

NIOSH to offer free health screenings for coal miners

Image: NIOSH

Washington — NIOSH will offer a series of free, confidential health screenings for coal miners through its Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program.

NIOSH’s mobile testing unit is scheduled to visit mining sites and public areas in the Western United States to screen for early detection of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, a deadly but preventable condition commonly known as black lung. The condition is caused by exposure to respirable coal mine dust.

Screenings are slated to begin April 8 in Grants, NM. Another set of screenings is planned for the weeks of April 15 through May 31 at sites in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Wyoming and Utah.

NIOSH lists numerous benefits of the screenings:

  • An easy method for checking miners’ health.
  • A confidential report on whether radiographic evidence of black lung is present.
  • A confidential report detailing miners’ lung function.

“If black lung is caught early, steps can be taken to help prevent it from progressing to the most serious forms of the disease,” NIOSH Director John Howard said in a press release. “The NIOSH surveillance program provides both underground and surface miners with confidential screenings that can enable and motivate action toward reducing their exposure to coal dust.”

This past May, a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that more than 4,600 coal miners have developed the most severe form of black lung disease since 1970, with nearly half of the cases emerging after 2000.

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