NIOSH Announces Free, Confidential 2015 Screenings for Coal Miners

May 5, 2015
NIOSH Update:

Beginning in June 2015 the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will offer a series of free, confidential health screenings to coal miners throughout the United States.  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 is in response to a well-documented increase in serious disease. This year’s major focus starts the week of June 21 and ends on August 1, 2015, in coal mining regions throughout the Northwest.  Screenings will be held in sites throughout Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah.  Local and individual outreach will be done in all specific locations.  All coal miners (current, former, underground, and surface) are welcome to participate. 

“Our priority and concern is to protect the health and safety of coal miners which includes a dedicated effort towards early detection,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “Through this free and confidential program miners can be protected from potential diseases down the line.”

The screening provided by NIOSH will include a work history questionnaire, a chest radiograph, 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.

The prevalence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis among long-term underground miners who participated in chest radiographic screening decreased from the 1970s to the 1990s.  Although still much less than in the 1970s, the prevalence of CWP among US coal miners has increased since the 1990s.  CWP can occur in mines of all sizes.  The more serious advanced type of disease called Progressive Massive Fibrosis (PMF) is much more prevalent among miners from underground mines with fewer than 50 workers.  Miners who work in particular areas of the country, in certain mining jobs, and in these smaller mines have an increased risk of developing CWP.

Participation in this Enhanced Program gives the coal miner:

  • An easy way of checking on their health;
  • A confidential report regarding whether or not they have radiographic evidence of CWP;              
  • Detection at an early stage of some chest problems other than “black lung.”

NIOSH encourages miners and their families to find out additional information about the ECWHSP at the following website: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/surveillance/ORDS/ecwhsp.html You may also call the toll free number (1-888-480-4042) with questions.

Page last reviewed: May 5, 2015