If you work in, or are about to start work in the coal mining sector, one very important health risk to know about is black lung disease.
Black lung disease is a broadened name for lung diseases that develop from breathing in coal dust. Medically speaking, it is a specific type of pneumoconiosis named coal workers’ pneumoconiosis or CWP, and there are two different forms of CWP (simple CWP) and (complicated CWP).
Complicated CWP also includes progressive massive fibrosis or PMF. The name is simply called black lung, because people with the disease have lungs that are black rather than pink.
What causes CWP?
Inhaling coal dust increases your risk of developing chronic bronchitis and also COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). CWP is a reaction to accumulated dust in the lungs caused from working in a coal mines and similar fields. It may appear and worsen during exposure to the dust and often gets even worse after exposure to it finishes.
The severity will depend on how much dust was in the air, the type of coal dust, and how long you are exposed. For many sufferers, there are no initial symptoms but as it progresses or becomes ‘complicated’ by PMF, coughing and shortness of breath will develop, and then airway obstruction will follow.
Smoking does not increase the presence of CWP, but it can add to lung damage, and over time a type of emphysema or fibrosis might also develop.
How can it be prevented?
CWP can be prevented by making sure there is good ventilation in the workplace, and the application of water in specific site locations and proper control of dust including masks.
If you think you may have symptoms of CWP contact your doctor.