Black Lung Disease is a Workplace Hazard for Miners

Submitted by Charles Frost on Wed, 04/07/2010 - 20:39.
Black Lung Disease, also generally referred to as silicosis, coal workers' pneumoconiosis, or black lung, is a hazard effecting coal miners' health. It is caused by repeated inhalation of coal mine dust and turns the lungs black instead of their usual, healthier pink color. If exposure to the coal mines is repeated over a long period of time, the disease progresses into an incurable status. Black Lung Disease can become serious over an amount of time without being noticed until it reaches the end stages where shortness of breath occurs along with coughing up blood or sputum. These later stage symptoms may force the miner to seek treatment. Unfortunately, there is yet no cure for Black Lung Disease.

Black Lung Disease correlates with many other breathing diseases such as emphysema, respiratory and heart failure, and progressive massive fibrosis lungs.

Black Lung Disease is confined to only miners and people who work around the mines. It is an occupational hazard caused by prolonged inhalation of dust and coal particles from coal mines. Silica, carbon, and coal particles, when inhaled, make the lungs fibrous so that expansion of the lungs as well as breathing becomes difficult.

The early stage of Black Lung Disease is called simple pneumoconiosis. It is not fatal at this stage, nor extremely debilitating. The miner will still be able to work with minimum impairment. At this point, scar tissue on the lungs forms where patches of the disease have settled in the lungs. The dangerous side of this illness is its late onset. Symptoms may not be experienced to 10 or 25 years after the disease begins to build up in the lungs.

The common symptoms of are shortness of breath experienced by exertion, coughing without producing sputum or blood, inflammation of the lungs, a sense of being sick or ill, loss of sleep, chest pain, developing a hoarse voice, and nails and lips appearing pale or blue in color.

Progressive massive fibrosis, or PMF, is the final stage of Black It is highly disabling. This stage of Black Lung Disease occurs when the dust particles spread from the lower lunges to the upper portions, massively affecting the lungs and creating more scar tissue to make the lungs fibrous. According to a BMJ Occupational and Environmental Medicine experiment, it was found that people with this stage of Black lung Disease weigh less than the average person. People in the last phase will also cough and produce sputum or blood. At this late state there is absolutely no cure and the patient may have to have oxygen administered to help him breathe a little easier.

It is also possible to develop emphysema as a complication to Black Lung Disease. In this state the lungs' air sacs become damaged. The symptoms of emphysema are severe shortness of breath and respiratory and heart failure. It is not uncommon for those with emphysema to have to have a constant supply of air to the lungs by means of a portable oxygen tank and to stop all vigorous activities that causes increased respiration.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for Black Lung Disease at this time. However, miners and other employees exposed to mine dust particles can learn the early symptoms, visit their doctor and stop the disease by progressing by removing further contact with dust and mine particles.

Myelectronic MD

BMJ Occupational and Environmental Medicine


Dangers of coal

I enjoyed reading all of your informative stories this morning about coal, Bill.

Some people have a very low tolerance for the coal dust and can develop black lung disease without long term exposure.  My father was a coal miner when he was in his early 20's for only a couple years.

He developed black lung in his early fifties and applied for benefits, for which he was denied because the doctors and black lung office did not believe he officially had black lung disease due to his short exposure to the mines.

He died at age 56.  He was 6' 2" and less than 100 pounds.  Not a pleasant way to die.  It was not until after his death and an autopsy was performed before he was officially diagnosed with black lung disease.

I often wonder if his disease was also contributed to the coal that his parents used to heat their home?

Black Lung death is important story to tell here in NEO

We act like all the coal we burn here doesn't have huge social costs, including killing many among us - leaders here won't even admit the direct harm to the environment from burning coal, much less mining for it.

How about we propose a Cleveland Black Lung Awareness day to help citizens understand the real cost of burning coal here, for all purposes.

The best way to save these lives is through conservation. We never discuss that here, except on realNEO, of course.

Thank you for sharing this painful story and reality with us, Lily.

Disrupt IT

Coal Dust & Cancer

Coal Is Linked to Cancer in China Province
Coal Dust (IARC Summary & Evaluation, Volume 68, 1997)
5.2 Human carcinogenicity data
There have been no epidemiological investigations on cancer risks in relation to coal dust per se. There is, however, a large body of published literature concerning cancer risks potentially associated with employment as a coal miner, including a small number of exposure-response associations with coal mine dust.
Cancers of the lung and stomach have been investigated most intensively among coal miners, with sporadic reports for other sites, such as urinary bladder. The absence of information on levels of the specific components of coal mine dust (e.g. coal, quartz, metals) further hindered interpretation of the epidemiological literature.
The evidence from occupational cohort studies for an association between coal mine dust and lung cancer has not been consistent; some studies revealed excess risks, whereas others indicated cohort-wide lung cancer deficits. There is no consistent evidence supporting an exposure-response relation for lung cancer with any of the customary dose surrogates, including duration of exposure, cumulative exposure or radiographic evidence of pneumoconiosis.
In contrast to the lung cancer findings, there have been reasonably consistent indications of stomach cancer excess among coal miners, detected both in occupational cohort studies and in community-based case-control studies. However, there is no consistent evidence supporting an exposure-response gradient for coal mine dust and stomach cancer.

Coal Dust

One of the causes of lung cancer is exposure to coal dust. Exposure to coal dust can cause some coal mine workers to develop pneumoconiosis, or "black lung." This occurs when inhaled coal dust becomes imbedded in the lungs, causing them to harden and making breathing difficult.

It is estimated that this disease affects 2.8 percent of coal miners. About 0.2 percent of coal workers have scarring on the lungs, the most severe form of the disease. Each year, close to 400 people die from black lung disease.

If you are or have been a coal worker, and have been diagnosed with a form of cancer caused by coal dust, you may have a legal right to seek compensation. That determination can only be made after a careful consultation with an attorney.



By refusing to deal honorably with others, you dishonor yourself.

interesting stories on coal dust

My grandparents burned coal for heat for probably 50 years or so.  I remember visiting their home as a child and seeing the black dust coating everything in their house including black ceilings that were constantly painted over. I looked in their basement once and checked out their giant old coal furnace.   They used a big shovel to put the coal in the furnace. They lived in West Virginia. Some people still use coal and the old furnaces to heat their homes.  My grandparent's former home, which is still occupied by relatives, still has the coal furnace.   My father's brother also died at a young age, 59, with lung problems.  He was never tested for black lung disease because he never worked in the coal mines. My father only worked in the mines for approximately two years and the autopsy proved he had black lung disease.   I have always believed that it was caused by the burning of coal in their home.

thank you for posting this info.

Black lung stats-FACT


Black lung is serious, but is on the decline.  See table below.  I was surprised to see the number of miners w/ black lung through the 1970s, but was even more sursprised to see the current statistics from miners. 


Table 9.D1—Benefits currently payable to miners, widows, and dependents, December 1970–2008 Year Number Benefits (thousands of dollars) Total Miners Widows Dependents a Monthly amount Annual amount 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
111,976 43,921 24,889 43,166 12,500 111,000
231,729 77,213 67,358 87,158 27,200 378,900
298,963 101,802 88,067 109,094 37,800 554,400
461,491 159,837 124,154 177,500 63,700 1,045,200
487,216 169,097 134,700 183,419 71,500 951,300
482,311 165,405 139,407 177,499 75,500 947,700
469,655 158,087 142,495 169,073 77,400 963,300
457,399 148,720 144,543 164,136 80,500 942,200
439,970 138,648 145,829 155,493 82,300 965,100
418,948 129,558 146,527 142,863 86,500 983,100
399,477 120,235 146,603 132,639 91,400 1,032,000
376,505 111,249 146,173 119,083 91,700 1,081,300
354,569 102,234 144,863 107,472 90,800 1,076,000
333,358 93,694 142,967 96,697 86,300 1,055,800
313,822 85,658 140,995 87,169 85,300 1,038,000
294,846 77,836 138,328 78,682 83,700 1,025,000
275,783 70,253 135,033 70,497 78,900 971,000
258,988 63,573 131,561 63,854 76,800 940,000
241,626 56,977 127,322 57,327 73,500 904,000
225,764 51,048 123,220 51,496 72,000 882,000
210,678 45,643 118,705 46,330 70,000 863,400
196,419 40,703 114,046 41,670 68,400 844,400
182,396 35,971 109,091 37,334 66,500 822,500
168,365 31,664 103,334 33,367 64,100 794,300
155,172 27,828 97,414 29,930 60,600 751,900
143,011 24,573 91,517 26,921 56,100 696,700
131,143 21,477 85,559 24,107 52,600 654,600
119,233 18,488 79,238 21,507 49,255 614,888
109,271 15,964 73,420 19,887 46,204 576,389
98,977 13,635 67,359 17,983 43,225 541,200
89,355 11,587 61,542 16,226 40,625 509,290
79,518 9,779 55,412 14,327 37,324 470,362
71,584 8,394 50,404 12,786 35,017 439,337
64,237 7,142 45,746 11,349 32,198 411,635
52,362 6,009 40,727 5,626 29,460 376,374
46,609 4,972 37,099 4,538 26,399 340,187
40,018 4,217 32,168 3,633 24,282 312,461
36,231 3,447 28,231 4,553 21,699 282,380
32,411 2,912 25,110 4,389 19,875 255,892
SOURCE: Department of Labor, Beneficiary Master Table, 100 percent data.
a. Includes wives of living miners, divorced wives, children, and dependent brothers and sisters of miners.
CONTACT: Bennett Stewart (606) 432-0116, ext. 126 or supplement [at] ssa [dot] gov.

The US has gone from producing 700Mtons in 1981 to 1050Mtons in 2003.  So the prodution has increased during the decline of Blacklung.

Current OSHA & MSHA standards require all workers to wear proper PPE (personnal protective equipment) in high dust environments.  Their regulatory oversite and improvement in the work environment is the root of the drastic reduction in black lung disease. 

Current OSHA, MSHA & environmental regulations do not support the contentions that coal facility operations cause black lung disease. 

Once again, the article is old-hat being rehashed to generate misguided fear.


Damn!!!Chart looked good until I posted in.  Second column is the number of black lung cases annually.  Rows are in years from 1970 to 2008.

Fact - kills millions

Fact - kills millions. If it weren't for environmentalists, unions and OSHA (socialists pigs) it would kill millions more.

So what is your point, killer.

Grew up near a freeway... lil lead poisoned?

Disrupt IT