Progression of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis absent further exposure


Objectives: The natural history of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP) after cessation of exposure remains poorly understood.

Methods: We characterised the development of and progression to radiographic progressive massive fibrosis (PMF) among former US coal miners who applied for US federal benefits at least two times between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2013. International Labour Office classifications of chest radiographs (CXRs) were used to determine initial and subsequent disease severity. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to identify major predictors of disease progression.

Results: A total of 3351 former miners applying for benefits without evidence of PMF at the time of their initial evaluation had subsequent CXRs. On average, these miners were 59.7 years of age and had 22 years of coal mine employment. At the time of their first CXR, 46.7% of miners had evidence of simple CWP. At the time of their last CXR, 111 miners (3.3%) had radiographic evidence of PMF. Nearly half of all miners who progressed to PMF did so in 5 years or less. Main predictors of progression included younger age and severity of simple CWP at the time of initial CXR.

Conclusions: This study provides further evidence that radiographic CWP may develop and/or progress absent further exposure, even among miners with no evidence of radiographic pneumoconiosis after leaving the industry. Former miners should undergo regular medical surveillance because of the risk for disease progression.

Authors: Kirsten S Almberg, Lee S Friedman, Cecile S Rose, Leonard H T Go, Robert A Cohen
; Full Source: Occupational and environmental medicine 2020 Aug 11;oemed-2020-106466. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2020-106466.