NIOSH to provide free 'black lung' screenings to surface coal miners

NIOSH has announced a series of free, confidential screenings to surface coal miners for pneumoconiosis beginning this month under the Enhanced Coal Workers' Health Surveillance Program.

Pneumoconiosis, or "black lung," is defined by NIOSH as a serious yet preventable occupational lung disease that stems from inhaling coal mine dust. The screenings, provided by a mobile testing van, will include a work history questionnaire, chest X-ray and blood pressure reading, according to a NIOSH press release.

Traditionally, screenings have been given to underground coal miners. However, experts believe surface coal miners also may be at risk for developing black lung. After decreasing from the 1970s to the 1990s, the prevalence of pneumoconiosis in long-term underground coal miners participating in the program has increased to 9 percent -- double the rate in 1995, NIOSH said.

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