Black lung review committee to submit interim findings today

The review committee into the Queensland Mine Workers Health Scheme (QMWHS) will present interim findings about black lung screening to the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Mines today.

Head of the review committee Professor Malcolm Sim said the committee would then discuss the interim findings with a departmental discussion group on April 8, however the committee would not be able to reveal details of the review until the release of the final report at the end of June this year.

“It’s very important to see the whole thing in context, there’s a story here and it’s important to see it all in context rather than in bits and pieces,” he said.

At present the review committee is engaged in the review of lung x-rays from “several hundred” mine workers for symptoms of pneumoconiosis that may have been missed by the QMWHS.

The Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand president Professor Peter Gibson has called for a complete overhaul of the systems of health review for coal miners in Australia, to change from state-based to a national standardised system.

“It is unacceptable that any new cases of coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP) should be occurring in Australia in 2016 because this is a preventable disease, and it’s a problem that’s fixable,” Gibson said.

“We urgently need to review the levels of dust to which coal miners are exposed and develop a national, standardised, diagnosis and reporting scheme for CWP that is independent of industry, so the true burden of disease in coal workers can be accurately identified and monitored.”

At present Queensland and NSW have different allowable limits for airborne dust in coal mines, being 3mg per cubic metre of air in Queensland, and 2.5mg in NSW.

Australian standards lag behind those in the UK and notably the US, where in February this year a national standard of 1.5mg per cubic metre was introduced.

Last week the CFMEU revealed two more cases of black lung had been diagnosed in Queensland coal miners, bringing the total number to eight cases diagnosed since December last year.

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