Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis Deaths on the Decline

Coal Miners
Coal Miners
Coal workers' pneumoconiosis deaths significantly decreased from 1999 to 2016 for residents ≥25 years.

From 1999 to 2016, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP) years of potential life lost compared with life expectancy increased from 8.1 to 12.6 years, according to a study released by the US Centers for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

For this analysis, 26 states (Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) provided information on decedents’ occupations.

Based on the data provided by the states, researchers from NIOSH counted the deaths of people aged ≥25 years. Additionally, years of life lost compared with life expectancy before age 65 were calculated for each deceased person. CWP deaths were verified by death certificates listing coal workers’ pneumoconiosis as the primary cause of death.

The results showed that CWP deaths significantly decreased (by 73%), from 409 in 1999 to 112 in 2016 for residents ≥25 years. CWP deaths in residents aged ≥65 years decreased 77%, from 389 in 1999 to 88 in 2016. In those individuals between the ages of 25 and 64 years, there was no significant change in the number of CWP deaths within the same time frame.

The NIOSH researchers suggested that decreases in CWP death rates and CWP years of potential life lost relative to life expectancy can possibly be attributed to a decline in mining employment. The researchers concluded that premature death from CWP emphasizes the need for primary prevention by limiting exposure to coal dust, early detection, and appropriate medical care for those diagnosed with CWP.

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Mazurek JM, Wood J, Blackley DJ, Weissman DN. Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis—attributable years of potential life lost to life expectancy and potential life lost before age 65 years—United States, 1999-2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly RP 2018;67:819-824. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6730a3