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NIOSH Announces Free, Confidential 2013 Screenings For Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis For Coal Miners


February 25, 2013
NIOSH Update:

Contact: Nura Sadeghpour (202)245-0673

Beginning in March 2013 the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will offer a series of free, confidential health screenings to coal miners throughout Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. 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 well-documented clusters of serious disease. The first visit is scheduled for the week of March 3 in areas throughout Alabama. Local and individual outreach will be done in all specific locations.

“NIOSH is committed to public health outreach and surveillance for coal worker health,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “Early detection of black lung in coal miners, through a screening program that is free and confidential, is critical to protecting these workers from advancing to stages of the disease that are life-threatening.”

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. 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. This Enhanced Program is seeking to find out why.

Participation in this Enhanced Program gives the coal miner:

  • An easy way of checking on their health
  • A report regarding whether or not they have x-ray 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: You may also call the toll free number (1-888-480-4042) with questions.