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Rapidly progressive coal workers’ pneumoconiosis in the United States: geographic clustering and other factors
  1. V C dos S Antao1,
  2. E L Petsonk1,
  3. L Z Sokolow2,
  4. A L Wolfe1,
  5. G A Pinheiro1,
  6. J M Hale1,
  7. M D Attfield1
  1. 1Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morgantown, WV, USA
  2. 2BioIntelligence Center, National Center for Public Health Informatics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr V Antao
 Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1095 Willowdale Road, MS 2800, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA;


Background: Despite significant progress made in reducing dust exposures in underground coal miners in the United States, severe cases of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), including progressive massive fibrosis (PMF), continue to occur among coal miners.

Aims: To identify US miners with rapidly progressive CWP and to describe their geographic distribution and associated risk factors.

Methods: Radiographic evidence of disease progression was evaluated for underground coal miners examined through US federal chest radiograph surveillance programmes from 1996 to 2002. A case of rapidly progressive CWP was defined as the development of PMF and/or an increase in small opacity profusion greater than one subcategory over five years. County based prevalences were derived for both CWP and rapidly progressive cases.

Results: A total of 886 cases of CWP were identified among 29 521 miners examined from 1996 to 2002. Among the subset of 783 miners with CWP for whom progression could be evaluated, 277 (35.4%) were cases of rapidly progressive CWP, including 41 with PMF. Miners with rapidly progressive CWP were younger than miners without rapid progression, were more likely to have worked in smaller mines (<50 employees), and also reported longer mean tenure in jobs involving work at the face of the mine (in contrast to other underground mining jobs), but did not differ with respect to mean underground tenure. There was a clear tendency for the proportion of cases of rapidly progressive CWP to be higher in eastern Kentucky, and western Virginia.

Conclusions: Cases of rapidly progressive CWP can be regarded as sentinel health events, indicating inadequate prevention measures in specific regions. Such events should prompt investigations to identify causal factors and initiate appropriate additional measures to prevent further disease.

  • CWP, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis
  • CWXSP, Coal Workers’ X-ray Surveillance Program
  • ILO, International Labour Office
  • NIOSH, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
  • PMF, progressive massive fibrosis
  • pneumoconiosis
  • coal mining
  • radiography
  • thoracic
  • surveillance

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  • Competing interests: none declared