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Prevalence Of Silicosis Studied In Surface Coal Miners

Hershey, Pa. --- New research finds that 9 percent of surface coal miners in the bituminous coal regions of western Pennsylvania have silicosis. The study also found that of surface coal miners who worked as drillers more than 20 years, 61 percent had silicosis.

The research titled, "Screening for Silicosis in Surface Coal Miners," was presented in April at the 1998 International Conference of the American Thoracic Society and the American Lung Association in Chicago, Ill., by John L. Stauffer, M.D., professor of medicine at Penn State's College of Medicine. Stauffer is also a pulmonary and critical care physician for the Penn State Geisinger Health System.

"In order to mine surface coal, workers have to go through a layer of soil and rock. As they blast and drill through this layer, miners are exposed to rock dust before they get to the coal," says Stauffer. "Fortunately, most of the abnormalities detected on the chest x-rays were in the very early stages. But we are concerned about those surface miners who could face the risk of progressive disease."

Silicosis is a chronic, incurable and potentially fatal lung disease caused by occupational exposure to inhaled silica dust. It is estimated there are about 3,300 surface miners of bituminous coal in western Pennsylvania. This research evaluated 667 surface miners who volunteered for the study. Each miner was given a chest X-ray and a breathing test, and answered questions related to demographics, medical and work histories, smoking behavior, respiratory symptoms, and safety awareness practices.

"Silicosis has killed more people in Pennsylvania than any other state. The results of this study demonstrate that silicosis is prevalent in surface coal miners in western Pennsylvania and suggest the need for increased environmental controls and safety practices to help reduce the risk of acquiring silicosis. This disease is preventable," states Stauffer. "Our results also ma
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Contact: Leilyn Perri
lperri@psghs.edu
717-531-8604
Penn State
26-May-1998


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