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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Rutgers Faculty Comments on the Delphi Method to Reduce Disability and Death from Coal Mine Dust in China

Rutgers School of Public Health faculty member, Dr. Judith Graber, comments on a recent study that applies the Delphi method to identify prevention strategies for coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP) in China.

CWP belongs to the group of diseases known as coal mine dust lung disease (CMDLD), which includes silicosis, dust-related diffuse fibrosis, mixed dust pneumoconiosis, and possibly lung cancer. The recent resurgence of CMDLD in coal miners necessitates new and more effective approaches to protecting the health and safety of coal miners.

The Delphi method is a systematic iterative process that engages a panel of experts in revising and ranking proposed criteria to arrive at a consensus – while the Delphi method has been used to guide the setting of occupational health and safety research, its application to reducing CWP at the national level is new.

Dr. Graber references the Cui et al study that applies the Delphi method to identify prevention strategies for CWP in China, ranking sixty-nine indicators of CWP risk, such as ventilation and physical characteristics of the coal seam, in four Chinese state-owned coal mining enterprises.  Cui et al found that when using the Delphi method, the highest ranked factors for preventing and controlling CWP are ‘geological conditions’ and ‘dust control engineering technology,’ which surprisingly ranked above occupational health management strategies such as regulating permissible coal mine dust exposure levels. The authors’ findings suggest that setting occupational disease prevention strategies, such as regulating permissible coal mine dust exposure levels, at the national level, is inadequate when prevalence and risk vary locally by modifiable and non-modifiable factors, such as geography.

Applying the Delphi method to inform CWP prevention is an innovative approach to understanding the driving factors of the health and wellbeing of coal miners, both in China and beyond. Coal miners face a significant risk of occupational lung disease, which in its most severe form progresses to massive fibrosis and death.

“Coal miners in the U.S. and elsewhere are experiencing an alarming resurgence in the occurrence and severity of CMDLD at a time when stricter regulation seems unlikely. We need innovative responses to help guide the prioritization of occupational health and safety strategies and prevent coal miner disability and death,” comments Dr. Graber. “Applying the Delphi method is one such approach.”

Application of the Delphi method to reduce disability and mortality from coal mine dust lung disease in China; a new approach to an old problem,” was published in the journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine.