NIOSH’s Video on Black Lung Respiratory Disease in Coal Miners
March 10, 2020 - In January of this year, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a video that demonstrates how black lung is occurring in young and old coal miners, raises awareness about the costs of the disease and motivates workers to participate in free and confidential health screenings.
The CDC urges workers to get screened for the disease in order to detect early signs of black lung, or coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP). This is especially important since cases of the disease have almost doubled over the last fifteen years.
The video is called Faces of Black Lung II – The Story Continues, and it is a follow-up to the first Faces of Black Lung video made over ten years ago. It gives the viewer a short history on miner protections, transitions to the stories of three young minors with the disease, and basically emphasizes that the disease does not discriminate against worker age.
“Black lung is entirely preventable, and if effective dust controls are carefully applied and dust levels are accurately monitored, we will be one step closer to eradicating this disease,” says Anita Wolfe, public health analyst and program coordinator of NIOSH’s Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program. “NIOSH encourages miners to take advantage of free screenings in order to detect the early signs of black lung, often before the miner is even aware of any lung problems.”
If miners catch the disease early, they can take steps to keep it from progressing to severe lung disease. In addition to the testimonials from three miners, Faces II provides brief commentary from medical experts who remind viewers of the following: black lung can occur in miners who work in mines of all sizes; certain mining jobs like continuous miner operators, shuttle car operators, surface drillers and blasters or high wall and thin seam miners, as well as workers in smaller mines, have an increased likelihood of developing CWP; and communities of miners working in Eastern Kentucky, Southern West Virginia, and Southwestern Virginia have seen a particularly high increase in black lung.
Under the NIOSH Coal Workers Health Surveillance Program, miners have the opportunity to have a chest x-ray, a breathing test and a respiratory assessment every five years at a nearby clinic. The screening is free and confidential to the miner. NIOSH will notify miners when they are eligible for this screening. NIOSH also has a mobile screening program housed in a mobile unit that travels to mining regions around the country. Miners are encouraged to make an appointment to participate, or walk-in when it is in their area.