What is known?
Coal mine dust lung disease is a group of occupational lung diseases caused by coal miners being exposed to coal mine dust over a period of time. One such disease is coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. Given recent reports of an unexpected increase in the prevalence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis among current coal workers in the United States, there has been renewed public health concerns about these debilitating and non-curable diseases.
In many countries, including Australia, there is a lack of data about how prevalent these diseases are among coal miners. We conducted a systematic literature review to summarise the available evidence internationally.
What is new?
Most of the published prevalence studies were from the United States. The summary prevalence estimates (based on 15 studies, 12 from the United States) suggested that prevalence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis in the United States was higher in the 2000s than in the 1990s. Prevalence estimates were higher among underground coal miners compared to surface miners and increased with increasing length of time worked in coal mines. No published studies were found from Australia.
What does this mean?
The increasing prevalence of coal workers pneumoconiosis among coal miners highlights the importance of preventive efforts through effective dust control measures and routine surveillance of respiratory symptoms among current and previous coal miners. The limited amount of information from countries other than the United States limits our understanding of the current disease burden in other coal-producing countries, including Australia.
Contact: Paramita Dasgupta
Reference: Lu C, Dasgupta P, Cameron J, Fritschi L, Baade P. A systematic review and meta-analysis on international studies of prevalence, mortality and survival due to coal mine dust lung disease. PLOS ONE. 2021. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0255617.