Medical Research Shows Importance of Role of Silica in Rapidly Progressing Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis

The American Thoracic Society has posted the abstract of a paper written by some of the world’s leading coal workers’ pneumoconiosis medical researchers.  The paper provides information about the pathology of rapidly progressing coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, an aggressive form of black lung that is on the rise in regions such as eastern Kentucky and western Virginia.

Rapidly progressing coal workers’ pneumoconiosis has become an increasing concern due to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) identification of geographic “hot spots” where high rates of rapidly progressing black lung are being found—including more incidence among younger miners.  Because the surveillance data has suggested that silica and silicates are playing a role, the researchers sought to understand the pathology and patterns of disease.

The researchers looked at pathology samples from 18 miners.  As the abstract summarizes:

“The pathology reviews documented a particularly aggressive form of pneumoconiosis with features of accelerated silicosis.  A majority of cases demonstrated [progressive massive fibrosis (PMF)].  Classic lesions of simple [coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP)] were present but not prominent.  Atypical features such as diffuse dust-related fibrosis and alveolar lipoproteinosis were present.  Polarized light microscopy revealed large amounts of birefringent mineral dust particles consistent with silica and silicates, with sparse carbonaceous coal dust.”

The authors of the study are:  Asif Najmuddin, Robert A. Cohen, Edward L. Petsonk, Byron Young, Sheon MacNeill, Simone Tramma, Michael Regier, Jerrold L. Abraham, Andrew Churg, and Francis Green.

Below is an image of the abstract from the American Thoracic Society’s website.

Image of Abstract for Najmudden et al. study

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