Thousands of U.S. coal miners have obtained free, confidential chest X-rays to detect work-related lung diseases under a pilot program administered by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
According to MSHA, more than 4,000 miners have been tested and the deadline is rapidly approaching for other eligible coal miners to get the free X-rays.
The "Miners' Choice Health Screening" program, which began late last year, initially offered free chest X-rays to approximately 10,000 U.S. coal miners.
Those miners must obtain their chest X-rays prior to April 1, when a new group of miners become eligible for the testing.
"We are pleased with the response to the free X-ray offer so far," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for MSHA. "The X-ray results will give us a clearer picture of the respiratory disease problem among U.S. coal miners. Some miners have gained important personal health information while taking the free X-rays."
Current eligible participants include coal miners working at mining operations whose identification numbers end with the digit zero or 1.
MSHA has notified each miner working at a selected mine of his or her eligibility for a free X-ray under the program.
All X-rays taken are sent to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which notifies each tested miner, in writing, of individual findings.
Mine operators do not have access to any results of the X-rays on any miners.
MSHA will only receive statistical information and will inform the coal mining industry, miners' representatives and others of statistical data obtained through the program.
MSHA stressed that this information "will not include any personal data on any individual miner."
McAteer added, "Once we can accurately determine the depth and scope of respiratory problems, such as black lung and silicosis among working miners, MSHA, as well as industry and labor, can better direct and concentrate available resources at the root cause of the health hazards and eliminate them."
Coal miners who have questions concerning the free X-rays should can (800) 706-0735, for further information.