Black lung disease or Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis is a lung disease caused by extreme exposure to coal dust over a long period of time. The name of this disease is derived from the fact that coal miners with this disease have black-colored lungs instead of the typical pink color of healthy lungs.
How Does It Affect the Lungs?
An accumulation of coal dust in the lungs turns into a coal macule. Macules then develop into nodules, a lung tissue abnormality that hinders the airflow. With continued inhalation of coal dust, the condition develops into progressive massive fibrosis (PMF) that causes decreased lung function.
What are the Symptoms?
At the first stage of black lung disease, symptoms are not noticeable. However, when this disease progresses, a person may experience severe cough and difficulty in breathing even when they are at rest. As a result, people with this disease experience a decreased quality of life.
Since there are no early symptoms, doctors advise people who have worked in a coal mine to get a chest X-ray. This test and the person’s occupational history will help the doctor determine if a person suffers from black lung disease.
How to Treat Black Lung Disease?
Currently, there is no proven treatment for this disease. However, there are available treatments to keep the disease from progressing and to relieve you of severe cough and shortness of breath.
Under the Black Lung Benefits Act, former and current coal mine workers with black lung disease receive monthly financial benefits, including medical services, outpatient therapy, and monthly stipend. Those who applied for these benefits can get medical and therapy services from government-accredited facilities such as Nuclear Care Partners. Furthermore, the Act covers the dependent survivors of coal miners who died from this disease.
The only way to avoid getting black lung disease is to stay away from high levels of coal dust. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has already set a standard for dust control measures in coal mines. If you are working in a coal mine that is not consistently keeping the dust levels under control, you might consider quitting your job to save your lungs.