Federal agencies Workplace exposures Coal Mining_Oil_Gas

Most coal miners don’t receive required health tests: NIOSH

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Washington — The majority of coal miners don’t receive baseline chest and lung testing at federally mandated intervals, results of a recent study from NIOSH suggest.

Under the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, new coal miners must receive a chest X-ray when they begin work and again three years later. In addition, since 2014, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has required that spirometry, or lung function testing, be completed in the same time frame.

NIOSH researchers analyzed data from more than 115,000 miners in the agency’s Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program. The participants began mining between June 30, 1971, and March 15, 2019. Findings show that 44% of the miners received chest X-rays at the outset of their careers, while 13% received X-rays both in their first and third years.

Although 80% of the miners who began work since 2014 had undergone initial X-rays, only 12% received the required X-rays three years later. Additionally, only 17% had received initial spirometry testing since 2014, with nearly 3% also receiving it three years later.

NIOSH notes that medical tests are “essential” for early detection of black lung disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Black lung is another name for coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, a deadly condition caused by exposure to respirable coal mine dust. Multiple studies show that cases are on the rise.

“It is important to raise awareness that monitoring and protecting lung health are critical throughout a miner’s career,” NIOSH says. “These results show that raising awareness among new miners about the importance of baseline testing is an important need.”

The study was published online in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)