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MSHA News Release No. 2000-0224
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Released Thursday, February 24, 2000

Agency seeking coal miners help in targeting black lung
Thousands of coal miners obtain free chest X-rays

Thousands of U. S. coal miners have now obtained free, confidential chest X-rays to detect work-related lung diseases under a pilot program being administered by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Nearly 4,000 miners have been tested and the deadline is rapidly approaching for other eligible coal miners to get their free chest X-rays. The "Miners' Choice Health Screening" program, which began late last year, initially offered free chest X-rays to about 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 mine safety and health. "The X-ray results will give us a clearer picture of the respiratory disease problem among U.S. coal miners. We're also pleased to find that 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 0 or 1. MSHA has notified each miner working at a selected mine of his or her eligibility for a free chest X-ray under the pilot program and where the free X-ray can be taken. All X-rays taken are sent to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health which notifies each tested miner, in writing, of individual X-ray findings. Mine operators will not have access to any results of the chest X-rays on any miners. MSHA will only receive statistical information and will inform the coal mining industry, miners' representatives and other interested parties of statistical data obtained through the pilot program. This information will not include any personal data on any individual miner. MSHA will not receive any individual results.

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 chest X-rays should call 1-800-706-0735 for further information.

Since 1994, MSHA has been engaged in a multifaceted effort to end black lung disease and silicosis among U.S. mine workers. Among these actions were the appointment of an advisory committee to study elimination of black lung disease, establishment of a toll-free dust fraud hotline for miners to report excessive levels of respirable dust in their workplace, plans to shift to a single-sample system of measuring dust levels for enforcement purposes and preparations to increase dust sampling conducted by the agency.

Note to Editors: Please phone the contact listed on the front of this News Release for a complete listing of all participating medical facilities designated for inclusion in this program or visit MSHA's web site at http://www.msha.gov/s&hinfo/blung/xray/xraysite.htm.