What is Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis? (Black Lung)

It is a serious disease caused by breathing in fine particles of coal Dust, carbon or graphite over an extended period of time. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations to Coal Dust – A workers’ lungs, Dust collects in the air sacs, leading to scarring of the lung tissue, lung elasticity is affected.

If untreated or undetected, enough scarring tissue builds up. Acutely compromising a workers’ lung function. Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis has an extended latency period. Commonly 10 years between first exposure and identification of the disease.

What are the Symptoms?  

Simple (early stage) Coal Workers’ pneumoconiosis

  • Asymptomatic - There may be no symptoms or
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic cough

Complicated Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic Cough
  • Black sputum
  • Lung dysfunction
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Heart problems

How is it diagnosed?

Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis is detected by chest X-ray and by testing lung function. The use of a CT scan and lung biopsies are used to confirm a diagnosis.

What is the treatment?

The scarring of the lung tissue cannot be reversed. Workers’ diagnosed with the disease need to avoid further exposure to high concentrations Coal Dust.

What should I do if diagnosed?

The Worker must work away from further contact to Coal Dust and have a Doctor continually monitor the Workers’ health.

How Do I prevent it?

Avoid exposure to high levels of Coal Dust. Control the level of exposure and must use personal protective equipment or engineering controls to prevent breathing in harmful dusts. 


Summary: Coal workers' pneumoconiosis the facts Dept of Natural Resourses and Mines 2015