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Study: Mining Industry Noncompliance With Requirements Linked to Lung Disease Prevalence

Alison Rodriguez
Mines that are in compliance with the Mine Safety and Health Administration's requirements experience significantly lower lung disease cases over time compared with mines not in compliance. However, the lung disease burden among the coal mining industry has increased in the last decade.
The lung disease burden among the coal mining industry has increased within the last decade, but compliance with Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) requirements can alleviate the burden.

A study recently published in Risk Analysis found that mines in compliance with MSHA requirements experienced significantly lower lung disease cases over time. The investigators used the MSHA’s enforcement database to examine whether compliance of the MSHA regulations resulted in fewer mine-level disease counts.

“Given the recent increase in dust-induced lung disease among US coal miners and the respiratory hazards encountered across the US mining industry, it is important to enhance an understanding of lung disease trends and the organizational contexts that precede these events,” the authors wrote.

The MSHA requirements outline rules and regulations for sampling, emission limits, medical surveillance, dust monitoring, tests for gases, and air flow, according to a press release. The problem mines face is the limited resources that are available to assist the mines in determining how much to invest in each prevention method.

The researchers used data from 8165 mines across the country that were active during 1996 to 2015, revealing 730 cases of reported lung disease from 2006 to 2015. Additionally, a majority of the cases were reported from coal mines, compared with other mining commodities, and all the cases were pneumoconiosis. The majority of lung disease cases overall originated in the Appalachian region, while only a total of 22 cases in the Western, Southern, and North Central regions combined.

“The findings suggest that interstitial lung diseases were more prevalent in coal mines compared to other mining commodities, in Appalachian coal mines compared to the rest of the United States, and in underground compared to surface coal mines,” the authors explained.

The findings revealed that for each unit increase in an inspector observed instance of non-compliance with regulations intended to reduce the risk of exposure through management practices, there was a 12% to 14% increase in the probability of that mine reporting lung disease. Also, for each unit increase in an inspector observed instance of non-compliance with regulations involving reducing airborne contamination, there was a 10% to 22% increase in the probability of that mine reporting lung disease.

“Our study found that mines that comply with relevant MSHA health standards experience a substantially lower number of lung diseases over time,” said lead author Yorio, PhD, of CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. “This suggests a disciplined effort to comply with relevant MSHA requirements can be an effective method to prevent mining-related occupational lung disease.”

References

Yorio PL, Laney AS, Halldin CN, et al. Interstitial lung diseases in the US mining industry: using MSHA data to examine trends and the prevention effects of compliance with health regulations, 1996-2015. [published online April 12, 2018]. Risk Anal. doi: 10.1111/risa.13000.

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