More Miners Now Eligible for Free Chest X-rays

Thousands more U.S. coal miners are now eligible for free, confidential chest X-rays to detect work-related lung diseases, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

The "Miners' Choice Health Screening," a pilot program launched last fall, initially offered free, confidential chest X-rays to some 10,000 coal miners, an opportunity that expired for that group on March 31.

More than 7,000 coal miners took the free X-rays during the first phase.

During phase two of the program, which began April 1, approximately 10,000 more coal miners are now eligible for the free tests and are being notified by MSHA officials.

"We are encouraged by the number of coal miners who volunteered for the free X-rays in the first phase of this pilot program," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "I urge all miners who are now eligible for the free tests to take advantage of this opportunity and help us rid the mining industry of this disabling disease now and forever."

The pilot chest X-ray program is designed to ensure confidentiality, a concern shared by many of the eligible coal miners around the country.

"Our pilot program to check for black lung disease among miners is strictly confidential," said McAteer. "MSHA pays for the X-rays and NIOSH coordinates reading of the X-rays. No one else -- neither the mine operator or any other person -- may have access to any miner's chest X-ray results. The results are only available to the miner having the X-ray."

MSHA moved to implement the pilot program in response to a 1996 federal advisory committee chartered to make recommendations on eliminating black lung disease among miners.

With the exception of Kentucky, where every working coal miner is eligible for the free chest X-rays under the pilot program, only working miners at selected mining operations are currently eligible for the free chest X-rays.

In offering the X-rays to 20 percent of all coal miners in the initial year of the program, MSHA hopes to test every coal miner in the nation over a five-year period.

As of April 1, more than 2,000 miners in West Virginia are eligible for the free X-rays, the highest of any state.

Next highest are Colorado and Illinois where more than 800 miners are now eligible in both states.

The free chest X-rays are available through September.

A list of participating medical facilities where the chest X-rays may be obtained is available on MSHA's Web site at www.msha.gov.

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