Research/studies Silica Workplace exposures Respiratory conditions Coal Metallic Non-metallic Mining_Oil_Gas

Mine workers and breathing problems: Study looks at doctor visits

Photo: izusek/iStockphoto

East Lansing, MI — A recent study of workers at sand, gravel and stone mines in Michigan found a higher number of doctor visits for shortness of breath compared with workers in other production industries.

Researchers at Michigan State University examined lung disease as well as exposure to silica, various allergens and other irritants among more than 1,200 surface mine workers from around the state. They asked the workers, who each had at least 15 years of experience, to complete a questionnaire and provided them with free chest X-rays and breathing tests.

Results showed “an increased prevalence of seeing a doctor for shortness of breath, possible work-related asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” according to an MSU press release. In the release, lead study author Hailey TenHarmsel, a research assistant in the MSU College of Human Medicine, said the nature of surface mining leaves workers vulnerable to various exposure risks.


Doug Needham is executive director of the Michigan Aggregates Association, which represents 85% of aggregate mining operators in Michigan. “We are making sure the health and safety of the work itself and companies doing air monitoring aren’t exposed to anything,” Needham said. “We put in air monitors on their chest throughout a normal eight-hour day, and at the end of the day, they turn them in and get tested to ensure they weren’t exposed to any limits that will cause them harm.”

The study was published online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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