April 2, 2012
NIOSH Announces Free, Confidential 2012 Screenings For Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis For Underground Coal Miners Working In Small Mines
Contact: Christy Spring, (202)245-0633
Beginning in April 2012 the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will offer a series of free, confidential health screenings to underground coal miners who work in small coal mines (mines employing less than 50 miners) throughout Southern WV, Eastern KY and Western VA. The screenings are intended to provide early detection of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), also known as black lung, a serious but preventable occupational lung disease in coal miners caused by breathing respirable coal mine dust.
The health screenings will be provided through the state-of-the-art NIOSH mobile testing unit at convenient community and mine locations. NIOSH will provide the health screening for these coal miners under its Enhanced Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program (ECWHSP). This public health outreach focused on small mines is in response to a well-documented cluster of serious disease. The first visit is scheduled for the week of April 15 in Central and Southern WV.
"Early detection of black lung not only helps scientists identify trends in cases, but is critical to protecting miners from advancing to stages of the disease that are life-threatening," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "NIOSH is committed to a screening program that is free for the workers, confidential and effective."
The screening provided by NIOSH will include a work history questionnaire, a chest x-ray, and spirometry testing. Blood pressure screening will be offered as well. Typically, the process takes about 25 minutes. NIOSH provides the individual miner with the results of their own screening. By law each person’s results are confidential. No individual information is publicly disclosed, including the names of participating miners. The prevalence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis among long-term underground miners who participated in chest x-ray screening decreased from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Currently, the prevalence of CWP among US coal miners is increasing in mines of all sizes, while CWP, and the more serious disease of Progressive Massive Fibrosis (PMF) are much more prevalent among miners from underground mines with fewer than 50workers. This prevalence is also more pronounced in miners throughout Eastern Kentucky, Southern West Virginia, and Western Virginia. Therefore, those miners are being offered this enhanced screening over the next year.
NIOSH encourages miners and their families to find out additional information about the ECWHSP at the following website: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/surveillance/ORDS/ecwhsp.html or via the toll free number 1-888-480-4042.
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