Black lung disease; Pneumoconiosis; Anthrosilicosis
Coal worker's pneumoconiosis is a lung disease that results from breathing in dust from coal, graphite, or man-made carbon over a long period of time.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Coal worker's pneumoconiosis occurs in two forms: simple and complicated (also called progressive massive fibrosis, or PMF).
Your risk of getting coal worker's pneumoconiosis depends on how long you have been around coal dust. Most people with this disease are older than 50. Smoking does not increase your risk of developing this disease, but it may have an additional harmful effect on the lungs.
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Coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP), colloquially referred to as black lung disease, is caused by long exposure to coal dust. It is a common affliction of coal miners and others who work with coal, similar to both silicosis from inhaling silica dust, and to the long-term effects of tobacco smoking. Inhaled coal dust progressively builds up in the lungs and is unable to be removed by the body; that leads to inflammation, fibrosis, and in the worst case, necrosis.
Coal workers' pneumoconiosis, severe state, develops after the initial, milder form of the disease known as anthracosis (anthrac - coal, carbon). This is often asymptomatic and is found to at least some extent in all urban dwellers due to air pollution. Prolonged exposure to large amounts of coal dust can result in more serious forms of the disease, simple coal workers' pneumoconiosis and complicated coal workers' pneumoconiosis (or Progressive massive fibrosis, or PMF). More commonly, workers exposed to coal dust develop industrial bronchitis, clinically defined as chronic bronchitis (i.e. productive cough for 3 months per year for at least 2 years) associated with workplace dust exposure. The incidence of industrial bronchitis varies with age, job, exposure, and smoking. In nonsmokers (who are less prone to develop bronchitis than smokers), studies of coal miners have shown a 16% to 17% incidence of industrial bronchitis.
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Black lung disease is a common name for any lung disease developing from inhaling coal dust. This name comes from the fact that those with the disease have lungs that look black instead of pink. Medically, it is a type of pneumoconiosis called coal workers' pneumoconiosis. There are two forms: simple, which is known as coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP); and complicated, which is known as progressive massive fibrosis (PMF).
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Legal Term: Black Lung
Black lung is a legal term describing a preventable, occupational lung disease that is contracted by prolonged breathing of coal mine dust. Described by a variety of names, including miner's asthma, silicosis, coal workers' pneumoconiosis, and black lung, all are all dust diseases with the same symptoms.
Like all occupational diseases, black lung is man-made and can be prevented. In fact, the U.S. Congress ordered black lung to be eradicated from the coal industry in 1969. Today, it is estimated that 1500 former coal miners each year die an agonizing death in often isolated rural communities, away from the spotlight of publicity.
The United Mine Workers of America is a growing union with a diverse membership that includes coal miners, clean coal technicians, health care workers, truck drivers, manufacturing workers and public employees throughout the United States and Canada. In the face of an unrelentingly hostile environment for union organizing in the United States, the UMWA is achieving significant success in providing workers with a voice on the job and financial security at home. The international union today continues the fight we began in 1890 for safe workplaces, good wages and benefits and fair representation in workplaces throughout North America.
Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA)
The Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA) provides monthly payments and medical benefits to coal miners totally disabled from pneumoconiosis (black lung disease) arising from employment in or around the nation's coal mines. This Act also provides monthly benefits to a miner's dependent survivors if pneumoconiosis caused or hastened the miner's death. The Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation (DCMWC), within the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Standards Administration's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP), adjudicates and processes claims filed by coal miners and their survivors under the BLBA.
United States Department of Labor: To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.
In its early stages, called simple pneumoconiosis, the disease does not prevent the miner from working or carrying on most normal activities. In some miners, the disease never becomes more severe. In other miners, the disease progresses from simple to complicated pneumoconiosis, a condition also called progressive massive fibrosis. Pneumoconiosis is not reversible. There is no specific treatment.
Black lung disease has gone by many names, including anthracosis, black lung, black spittle, coal worker's pneumoconiosis, miner's asthma, and silicosis. (Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanosconiosis has been alleged to be synonymous with black lung disease but it is not.)
The term miner's asthma was first used in 1822. The cause of the spitting, coughing, and breathlessness in coal miners was unknown, so doctors used the word asthma to identify the condition. Later, silicosis became known as the disease producing breathlessness in miners who had worked where silica was thought to be in the coal mine dust.
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