A new study finds that modern coal miners are more likely than their predecessors to die from coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.
The study, conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the University of Illinois, Chicago, reveals that modern coal miners have become more likely to die from certain coal dust-related diseases than they have been since the 1970s.
This applies especially to miners working in Central Appalachia, according to a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) blog post.
Reinforces evidence of black lung occurring in younger miners
Researchers used data from the DOL Federal Black Lung Program to perform the study, which is described as “the largest existing study on causes of mortality in U.S. coal miners.” The study also used data from the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program at NIOSH and the National Death Index.
According to the study, rates of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, COPD, lung cancer and similar lung conditions are increasing in miners, with the Central Appalachian states of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia showing a “particularly concerning” trend.
This research reinforces “the growing body of evidence that black lung disease – including the most advanced form of the disease, progressive massive fibrosis (PMF) – is occurring in younger miners.” Federal data from 2019 noted that while coal workers’ pneumoconiosis declined for several decades at the end of the 20th century, PMF had been found “at rates not seen since the early 1970s.”
DOL promises continuing support
The DOL states that it and the Federal Black Lung Program will continue to:
- work with NIOSH to support further research on black lung disease
- partner with the Health Resources and Service Administration’s Black Lung Clinics Program to help inform miners about their ability to file claims for benefits, and
- find new ways to better serve miners with black lung disease and their families, including by “collaborating with states in coal country, when possible.”