About one in 50 tested coal miners showed evidence of black lung disease in early results from a voluntary chest X-ray program conducted by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
Preliminary results from the first year of program operation indicate that of 11,970 chest X-rays processed, 300 showed evidence of black lung, a disease caused by breathing excessive amounts of coal mine dust.
Black lung, or coal workers'' pneumoconiosis (CWP) can be progressive and can contribute to heart failure among other ailments, said MSHA.
The National Black Lung Association estimates that 1,500 people die each year due to black lung disease and related complications.
The agency began offering free, confidential chest X-rays under its Miners'' Choice Health Screening in October 1999.
Forty percent of coal miners diagnosed with black lung are 50 years of age or older. About 11 percent of those with the disease are listed in the 30 to 40 year age range.
Among state totals, West Virginia showed the highest concentration of coal miners with X-ray abnormalities associated with black lung, as 5.7 percent of the tested coal miners there showed evidence of the disease, said MSHA.
Kentucky had the highest number of abnormal chest X-rays with 112 from the 3,376 X-rays processed from that state. Both Indiana and Wyoming, with nearly 950 X-rays processed combined, had no abnormal X-rays, according to MSHA.
by Virginia Sutcliffe