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Pneumoconiosis among underground bituminous coal miners in the United States: is silicosis becoming more frequent?

Laney AS; Petsonk EL; Attfield MD
Occup Environ Med 2010 Oct; 67(10):652-656
Objectives Epidemiological reports since 2000 have documented increased prevalence and rapid progression of pneumoconiosis among underground coal miners in the United States. To investigate a possible role of silica exposure in the increase, we examined chest x-rays (CXRs) for specific abnormalities (r-type small opacities) known to be associated with silicosis lung pathology. Methods Underground coal miners are offered CXRs every 5 years. Abnormalities consistent with pneumoconiosis are recorded by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) B Readers using the International Labour Organization Classification of Radiographs of Pneumoconioses. CXRs from 1980 to 2008 of 90?973 participating miners were studied, focusing on reporting of r-type opacities (small rounded opacities 3-10 mm in diameter). Log binomial regression was used to calculate prevalence ratios adjusted for miner age and profusion category. Results Among miners from Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, the proportion of radiographs showing r-type opacities increased during the 1990s (prevalence ratio (PR) 2.5; 95% CI 1.7 to 3.7) and after 1999 (PR 4.1; 95% CI 3.0 to 5.6), compared to the 1980s (adjusted for profusion category and miner age). The prevalence of progressive massive fibrosis in 2000-2008 was also elevated compared to the 1980s (PR 4.4; 95% CI 3.1 to 6.3) and 1990s (PR 3.8; 95% CI 2.1 to 6.8) in miners from Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia. Conclusions The increasing prevalence of pneumoconiosis over the past decade and the change in the epidemiology and disease profile documented in this and other recent studies imply that US coal miners are being exposed to excessive amounts of respirable crystalline silica.
Respiratory-system-disorders; Pneumoconiosis; Underground-miners; Coal-miners; Coal-workers-pneumoconiosis; Bitumens; Black-lung; Silica-dusts; Silicosis; Occupational-diseases; Lung-disease; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Respirable-dust; Epidemiology; Surveillance
A Scott Laney, Surveillance Branch, Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1095 Willowdale Road, Mail Stop HG900.2, Morgantown, W V 26505-2888
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Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division