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NIOSH Respiratory Diseases Research Program

Evidence Package for the National Academies' Review 2006-2007

NIOSH Programs > Respiratory Diseases > Evidence Package > 8. Surveillance Activities

8.3 Hazard surveillance: National Occupational Health Survey of Mining

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Mandates to systematically and scientifically characterize harmful chemical and physical agents found at U.S. mines were specified by the U.S. Federal Mine Safety and Health Amendments Act of 1977, Section 101(a)(6)(B). MSHA requested that NIOSH assume this responsibility and RDRP surveillance staff did so.


RDRP designed and carried out the survey. From May 1984 to August 1989, 491 mines throughout the U.S. were visited by RDRP field survey personnel who collected data about exposure agents. Respiratory hazards assessed included potential exposures to various mine-related dusts, chemicals, welding, brazing, and soldering agents. Bulk mine dust samples were also obtained.

Outputs and Transfer

NIOSH [1996]. Results from the National Occupational Health Survey of Mining (NOHSM). Cincinnati, OH:U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No 96–136 (

  • Over 9,000 printed copies of “Results from the National Occupational Health Survey of Mining” were distributed to international and national researchers, employers, organizations, and agencies, during meetings (e.g. Third International Conference on the Health of Miners in Pittsburgh, 1996), and in response to requests that originated from various individuals, private and state organizations and U.S. agencies (639 requests) and 27 countries (106 requests).

In addition to the major report, five other NOHSM presentations/publications provided specific results on health hazards in the mining industry; two of these are indicated in the appendix by an asterisk (A8-2). The report and associated publications provided important mine hazard surveillance data. For example, based on analysis of bulk dust samples, it was estimated that approximately 214,000 miners were potentially exposed to dust with greater than five percent quartz. Overall, this work identified a broad range of occupational health hazards potentially affecting the health of over 200,000 U.S. miners that had never previously been documented through a systematic and scientifically valid study.

Intermediate Outcomes

NOSHM had influence on others outside of RDRP.

The following lists most of the types of interested parties that have requested further information from the NOSHM:

  • Individual researchers at academic institutions such as the Penn State University Mining Engineering Department and the Harvard School of Public Health, and the George Washington University Medical Center
  • Federal government agencies such as MSHA, the U.S. Bureau of Mines, and the NIH
  • Labor unions such as the UMWA
  • Trade associations such as the National Mining Association and the American Mining Congress
  • Mining companies such as Englehard Corporation and Homestake Mining Company

MSHA used the document as a source of information about occupational health hazards in the mining industry in preparing its Interim Final Rule on Hazard Communication (HazCom), 65 FR 59048, dated October 3, 2000 (A8-8). In the late 1990s, the NOHSM findings were used by MSHA to develop priorities for health-related environmental sampling in metal and nonmetal mines.

What’s Ahead

Although this project has been completed, the hazards surveillance data generated is available as a resource to interested investigators. Bulk mine dust samples collected during the survey have also been stored as a resource for potential future studies.