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Debilitating Lung Disease Among Surface Coal Miners With No Underground Mining Tenure

Halldin, Cara N. PhD; Reed, William R. PhD; Joy, Gerald J. MS; Colinet, Jay F. MS; Rider, James P. BS; Petsonk, Edward L. MD; Abraham, Jerrold L. MD; Wolfe, Anita L. BA; Storey, Eileen MD; Laney, A. Scott PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: January 2015 - Volume 57 - Issue 1 - p 62–67
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000302
Original Articles

Objective: To characterize exposure histories and respiratory disease among surface coal miners identified with progressive massive fibrosis from a 2010 to 2011 pneumoconiosis survey.

Methods: Job history, tenure, and radiograph interpretations were verified. Previous radiographs were reviewed when available. Telephone follow-up sought additional work and medical history information.

Results: Among eight miners who worked as drill operators or blasters for most of their tenure (median, 35.5 years), two reported poor dust control practices, working in visible dust clouds as recently as 2012. Chest radiographs progressed to progressive massive fibrosis in as few as 11 years. One miner's lung biopsy demonstrated fibrosis and interstitial accumulation of macrophages containing abundant silica, aluminum silicate, and titanium dust particles.

Conclusions: Overexposure to respirable silica resulted in progressive massive fibrosis among current surface coal miners with no underground mining tenure. Inadequate dust control during drilling/blasting is likely an important etiologic factor.

From the Surveillance Branch (Dr Halldin, Dr Petsonk, Ms Wolfe, Dr Storey, and Dr Laney), Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morgantown, WVa; Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (Dr Reed, Mr Joy, Mr Colinet, and Mr Rider), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pittsburgh, Penn; and Department of Pathology (Dr Abraham), State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Syracuse.

Address correspondence to: Cara N. Halldin, PhD, Surveillance Branch, Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, 1095 Willowdale Rd, Mail Stop HG900, Morgantown, WV 26505 (challdin@cdc.gov).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University supported the salaries of the authors, and no other funding was obtained. This work was performed as part of their work; no nongovernmental funding supported this work. The analytical electron microscope instrumentation at SUNY was partially supported by a grant from New York State Development's Division of Science, Technology and Innovation.

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2015 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine