NIOSH issues review of coal miner health data

Washington – After a long period of decline, “black lung” disease is becoming more prevalent among coal miners, especially those younger than 50, according to a new Current Intelligence Bulletin (.pdf file) from NIOSH.

Released April 27, the bulletin updates the agency’s previous review of information related to coal miner health, which was published in 1995.

NIOSH noted that the young miners developing black lung have worked their entire careers under the 1969 Coal Mine and Safety Act, which set the current limits for coal dust exposure. For years, NIOSH has recommended lowering permissible coal dust levels. The condition appears to be concentrated in the central Appalachian region of southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and western Virginia.

Possible explanations include excessive exposure due to increased coal mine dust levels and longer work hours, and more crystalline silica exposures, NIOSH said.

As with the earlier review, the bulletin said a separate compliance standard is necessary to target silica.

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