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A Clinical, Radiological and Occupational Review of Coal Mine Dust Lung Disease in Queensland

Underground » Health and Safety

Published: May 19Project Number: C27010

Get ReportAuthor: Katrina Newbigin and Rhiannon McBean | Wesley Dust Disease Research Centre

The aim of this project was to review recently diagnosed cases of Coal Mine Dust Lung Disease (CMDLD) following the re-identification of CMDLD in Queensland in 2015, to understand the spectrum of diagnoses, the severity of disease and the occupational histories leading to diagnosis.  

The study comprised a review of records and the collection of information via questionnaire.  Medical information was collected to confirm the diagnosis of CMDLD. This included a review of medical charts, imaging and spirometry from the point of diagnosis. Questionnaires were used to collect in-depth information on the individual's occupational history and their current respiratory health. The occupational history questionnaire utilised was developed specifically for this study while the respiratory questionnaires used internationally-validated questions. Seventy-nine current or former Queensland coal industry workers, with confirmed CMDLD, were included in the study.  The full spectrum of CMDLD diagnoses was identified in this study group. Disease severity, as assessed on medical imaging ranged from early disease to advanced disease. Similarly, disease severity assessed on spirometry testing ranged from normal to severely abnormal.

Examination of the extent of relationships between various variables reviewed in this study did not identify any correlations. No relationships were observed in the study group between radiological severity, spirometry, or occupational factors, including tenure in the coal industry and type of coal mine worked in (p >0.05 in all comparisons). The low power of the study means the lack of identified correlations may not adequately represent the true relationships between at least some of these variables.

There remains a need for additional, high quality longitudinal research before it can be determined whether the findings of this study are reflective of workers within the Queensland coal industry as a whole.

This study provides evidence that CMDLD exists in the Queensland coal industry and provides the first medical insight into these diseases in Queensland in over three decades. The full spectrum of CMDLD diagnoses was observed in this study group, and the information presented on disease severity on radiological and spirometry testing provides valuable insights to the current status of these diseases in coal workers. It is hoped the findings of this study lead to an increased awareness of these diseases and their current status in Queensland; continued improvement in the monitoring and control of dust exposures; and high-quality disease surveillance.

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