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Fifteenth case of black lung confirmed

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A fifteenth case of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis has been confirmed this week.

The mine worker, who has worked in underground longwall mines for 36 years, was given the all-clear on two separate occasions by nominated medical assessors and radiologists, according to the CMFEU.

The union said in a statement that the worker had been given a “clear bill of health” by medical professionals following an x-ray in May 2015. The disease was only picked up months later when the mine commenced a full review of all existing medical records with black lung disease expert Dr Bob Cohen.

Dr Cohen identified black lung disease in the miner and called for further tests to be done. However, Queensland medical professionals cleared the following CT scan conducted in March 2016.

The miner worked most recently in central Queensland’s Carborough Downs mine, where four other cases of black lung disease have been identified.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Division Queensland District President Stephen Smyth said that the system is still in crisis and failing to identify black lung disease despite a supposed focus on the illness.

“It is unbelievable that this disease was missed twice by Australian health professionals in less than a year,” Mr Smyth said.

“Even when black lung disease expert Dr Bob Cohen told them it was there they still couldn’t identify it.  That’s a nominated medical assessor, and a radiologist who have missed this disease and let a worker go back into dangerous and dusty conditions underground.

“This failure shows that the black lung crisis is escalating and why coalmine workers have lost all confidence in the health and regulatory systems that are supposed to be there to keep them safe.”

Mr Smyth said while the union was aware of more cases of black lung disease, especially from coal mine workers not wanting to put their jobs and livelihoods at risk by coming forward, failures in the system were also deflating confirmed cases.

“This coal mine worker had two tests done in 12 months, and both were cleared by Australian health professionals.  He also would have had tests done when he started working in Queensland mines, and x-rays done every five years since then.  Yet, he has no idea how long he has been living with black lung,” Mr Smyth said.

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