2019 ATS/ERS spirometry release
Nov 26, 2020· 5 min read

How spirometry helps the coal mining industry

As of 2019, more than 50,000 people were employed in the coal mining industry in the United States.

While many of those employed in this industry work in offices or other areas with reduced exposure to toxins, more than two thirds of employees spend their time underground.

Occupational health hazards of mining

A coal mine is one of the most toxic and dangerous working environments people experience.

The constant exposure to dirt, dust and debris from the mining process, combined with toxic fumes from combustion engines, creates a hostile environment for the human respiratory system. It's these harsh working conditions that leave these workers at higher risk of developing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other non-curable lung diseases, such as coal worker's pneumoconiosis (CWP), or black lung disease.

What's worse, studies suggest respiratory conditions such as black lung, lung cancer, and COPD are on the rise in US coal miners.

Occupational health respiratory lung function testing using portable spirometers, like the NDD EasyOne® Air make it easier for coal mining companies to monitor their workforce's health in the field.

Such testing can lead to the discovery of obstructive issues at earlier stages and help inform decision making to improve air quality in working conditions, potentially improving quality of life for thousands of workers years down the line.

In the information below, we'll explain why lung health screening is a crucial component of occupational health programs in the coal mining industry. We'll also shed a light on the two common lung diseases that coal mining workers are prone to developing. Finally, we'll explain why the EasyOne® Air is the most convenient, accurate, and easy-to-use tool for occupational health testers to use.

Let's dive in.

Why spirometry supports occupational health for coal miners

Any occupational health program intends to reduce risk factors that can lead to accidents, injuries, or health problems.

While the working environment in coal mining is constantly under review, and improvements have been made in recent years, it still poses a significant risk to workers.

Occupational health spirometry testing is a non-invasive, effective, and flexible method for measuring coal miner's’ lung capacity. However, not all spirometers can streamline this important testing. In fact, most of the older spirometers models require constant calibration, are extremely fragile and , bulky, and produce less-than-reliable results.

Calibration free, portable spirometry

The above factors provide a huge testing barrier to those in coal mining. But it's crucial to remember why lung health screening is vital in the first place – to identify workers with early indicators. Coal miners not only work in a hostile environment, but recent studies indicate that nearly 10 percent of all coal miners with 20+ years of experience eventually develop black lung disease.

Using a spirometer that is portable, durable, and can accurately measure lung capacity provides an excellent solution to these hurdles.

What is black lung disease?

There are several progressive lung diseases, but not many that are unique to a specific industry. Black lung disease or coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP) is a progressive disease that literally transforms the inside lung tissue black instead of a healthy pink. There are two forms of CWP – simple CWP and complicated CWP – which likewise includes progressive massive fibrosis (PMF).

What causes coal worker pneumoconiosis?

Essentially, CWP is caused by the frequent inhalation of coal dust. It stems mainly from coal trimming (which is the process of loading and securing coal for storage), the milling or mining of graphite, and the manufacturing of carbon electrodes (which are used in several large furnaces especially in cold weather climates). Mining for materials used in rubber goods such as tires and mechanical belts can also accelerate the development of CWP.

While it is often assumed that CWP is the same as COPD, it's quite different. CWP does show many of the symptoms associated with chronic bronchitis and emphysema (which fall under the COPD umbrella), but is not treated or monitored the same as COPD.

How the EasyOne® Air spirometer helps improve coal mining occupational health

The days of complicated, hard to use, and unreliable spirometry testing at coal mining facilities are a thing of the past. Modern technology, good manufacturing practices, and the development of high-quality components have introduced revolutionary spirometry equipment – such as EasyOne® Air portable, hand-held spirometers. NDD products comply with the NIOSH/OSHA occupational health standards.

The EasyOne® Air uses TrueFlow™ technology, ensuring excellent accuracy. In addition, the EasyOne Air requires little to no calibration – meaning the EasyOne® Air is easier to use than competitive products and still produces robust and reliable results under challenging conditions. The color screen is easy to read (easy-to-navigate toggles and controls) and is contained in a durable, lightweight casing

NDD Medical Technologies portable and lightweight spirometers can be used indoors, in an office environment, or at remote locations to provide baseline lung function tests. Results are consistent, robust, and generated in a matter of seconds.

Competitive advantages of the EasyOne® Air spirometer in coal mining

There are several competitive advantages of using the EasyOne® Air for coal mining industries:

  • Lightweight and portable
    The EasyOne® Air weighs less than a pound, is hand-held, and can be used indoors or outside.
  • Long-lasting battery for remote tests
    The EasyOne® Air spirometer uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. A fully charged battery can support the performance of approximately 100 spirometry test sessions.
  • Quick and real-time curves
    The EasyOne® Air features a brilliantly lit and simple to navigate screen that displays real-time curves – for fast, accurate, and easy to review results.

COVID-19 disruptions to spirometry and occupational health

COVID-19 has caused several disruptions in normal occupational health activities. To help reduce these variables, NDD Medical Technologies developed proprietary solutions that provide peace of mind for coal mining facilities or third-party organizations looking to include filtration when performing lung function tests.

  • All spirometer parts that are exposed to the patient's breath are single-patient use.
  • The filter keeps the ambient environment clean for both patients and technicians.
  • The EasyOne Air single-patient use FlowTubes and adapters require no special storage conditions.

Visit our COVID-19 Infection Control page for more information

The coal mining industry helps power energy independence and provides valuable resources to our global economy. While improvements have been made in worker respirator and personal protective equipment, the threats of inhaling coal dust and other toxins represent a true threat to developing lung disease.

The efficient and flexible use of professional spirometry equipment like the EasyOne® Air helps provide valuable health data so coal miners and their families can feel confident that their well-being is top of mind. If you'd like to learn more about the exceptional technology and performance of the EasyOne® Air, visit our product page.

Tim Charlet
Tim Charlet
Right2Breathe
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