American black lung expert Dr Bob Cohen.
American black lung expert Dr Bob Cohen. Geoff Egan

Bring mobile black lung scan vans to Qld: US expert

A LEADING international expert has called for Queensland to introduce a mobile black lung van to scan miners for black lung.

Speaking to the Queensland parliamentary inquiry into black lung, University of Illinois occupational health expert Bob Cohen said mobile vans, like those used to screen for breast cancer, were used in remote parts of the United States to test miners.

Dr Cohen also told the inquiry that former miners as well as coal port, rail and power station workers should be considered at risk of the disease.

When black lung was found to have re-emerged in Queensland, chest X-rays of coal workers were sent to Dr Cohen for re-examination. He found some of the X-rays that were declared black lung-free may have had the disease.

But he told the inquiry he was not given vital information about the miners including their work history or whether they smoked.

Dr Cohen said the mobile vans used in the USA had highly trained medical staff and technology to transmit scans to hospitals in major cities if needed.

"I think it's quite easy to do," he said.

"I mean it takes money, it takes some investment. But it may be cheaper than clinics that are doing it wrong."

Dr Cohen also said he believed coal workers should be offered ongoing tests for black lung after they retired.

"I think it should be offered, it would be hard to mandate for those people," he said.

"There is evidence dust diseases can progress after exposure."

The inquiry is due to report back to the parliament on April 12.