Black Lung Disease In Miners Increasing

Source: Iurii Kovalenko - 123RF

An American Journal of Public Health study published in August 2018 stated that 10% of underground coal miners who have worked 25-plus years, as well as 20% of coal miners in central Appalachia, have black lung – pneumoconiosis (CWP) – the highest level in 25 years.

According to the CDC, CWP can progress to respiratory failure and premature death: “The continuing occurrence of premature deaths from CWP underscores the need for primary prevention by preventing hazardous exposures to coal mine dust, secondary prevention by early disease detection and prevention of further hazardous exposures, and tertiary prevention by providing appropriate medical care to persons with CWP. “

Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America told the House Education and Labor Committee’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee that certain work in mines makes it virtually impossible for workers to wear helmets with respirators and others types of PPE.

Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health, David Zatezalo, said he’s hoping his agency will find a way to make that PPE less cumbersome.

He also noted that OSHA’s silica rule allows compliance achievement through PPE, while MSHA’s current standard does not.

Zatezalo added that some mines use end-of-shift silica monitoring technology as an engineering tool but “not a compliance tool.”

The agency is hopeful about the development of a continuous personal quartz monitor but Howard said the technology remains at least a decade away.