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MSHA News Release No. 2000-0929
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Kathrine Snyder/Amy Louviere
Phone: (703) 235-1452

 Released Friday, September 29, 2000

Tests Aimed at Ending Black Lung

Thousands More U.S. Coal Miners Newly Eligible for Free Chest X-rays

   More than 20,000 U.S. coal miners at nearly 600 mining operations are newly eligible to obtain free, confidential chest X-rays to detect traces of black lung disease beginning October 1, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). During phase three of the "Miners' Choice Health Screening," a program begun one year ago, MSHA will offer the free exams to more miners at operations in Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia, among several other states.

   "Our goal is to end black lung disease," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "However, we need to know how widespread black lung is among today's working coal miners and it would help us to know where those miners who may be afflicted with this horrible disease are geographically located. Armed with that information, we can better direct our resources at the problem."

   MSHA randomly selects the mining operations at which miners will be eligible for the free tests each year. Eligible miners will be notified by MSHA during the upcoming fiscal year and given a list of participating medical facilities in their local area where the free chest X-rays may be taken. The X-rays may be taken at any participating medical facility nationwide. In areas where no participating medical facility is available, mobile X-ray units will be dispatched to test eligible miners. X-rays taken are sent to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for examination. NIOSH will notify the tested miner of his or her results.

The free chest X-rays are confidential. Unlike a previous X-ray program that was paid for by mine operators, the new program does not involve any mine operators. Only the tested coal miner will be informed of the X-ray results. MSHA will collect statistical information on the numbers of miners being tested and those testing positive for black lung.

   The agency hopes to provide the free X-rays to about one-fifth of all coal miners each year for five years so that every one of the nearly 90,000 coal miners nationwide will have the opportunity for the free exam during the five-year period.

   During phase one and two of the program, which were conducted in six-month segments during the fiscal year 2000, about 60 percent of eligible coal miners took the free chest X-rays, with the exception of Kentucky, where there was a slight difference in administering the program. Unlike other states, all coal miners in Kentucky were eligible for the tests during the previous phase which ends Sept. 30, 2000. During the new phase beginning Oct. 1, only selected miners in Kentucky will be eligible.

   MSHA is encouraging all eligible coal miners to take the free chest X-rays. "There may be important medical information disclosed by these exams which could be of great concern to any coal miner and his or her family," McAteer added.

   Working miners who have questions concerning the free chest X-rays are asked to call toll- free 1-800-706-0735. Those calling after business hours are asked to leave a message to have their call promptly returned the following day. Only current, working miners are eligible for the free chest X-rays.

   Attached is a list, by state, of the mining operations where miners are eligible for the free chest X-rays.

List of mining operations - File is PDF