Occupational Lung Disease
In a recently published article by CBS News, coal mining was presented as one of the worst occupations for your health. Apart from the immediate physical dangers of mining are long lasting health concerns, specifically black lung disease. Most American’s have known about the harms of coal mining for decades, and although the prevalence of black lung disease has dropped over the past 20 years, it is now on a sharp incline.
Lung functioning with Black Lung Disease
Pneumoconiosis, the medical term for black lung disease, is a form of interstitial lung disease (ILD). The lungs become viably blackened by the inhalation of coal dust over long periods of time. The result is heavy damage in the lungs including: damage to the walls of the air sacs that are responsible for exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide and an overall stiffening of the lungs reducing its ability to expand with air. The result of this damage is very poor lung functioning. The oxygen you inhale doesn’t get properly exchanged in the lung’s air sacs, so your blood oxygen level falls effecting all of your organs negatively. Also, with the elasticity of the lungs compromised, the overall capacity of the lungs is decreased, which adds to the detrimental effects of the disease.
The symptoms of black lung disease are fairly common for most lung diseases. Shortness of breath and chronic cough are the most common indication of black lung disease. These, followed by years of employment as a coal miner can indicate the presence of the disease. When someone with black lung disease has a chest x-ray it is clear that the lungs have been damaged. Often the lungs show small connected white lines throughout in the x-ray typically originating from where the bronchial tubes enter the lungs.
Protection from Black Lung Disease
In 1977, the United States Congress took a stance against black lung disease by officially mandating that the coal industry eradicate the disease. The same statute also created the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund to help compensate sufferers of black lung disease. The revenue for the fund is financed by the taxes of the coal industry.
Of course, there is no way to be completely safe while working as a coal miner. You can however take steps to decrease the chances of black lung disease developing. You should always where a respiratory mask while mining or whenever you may be in the vicinity of coal dust or particles. Most mining operations require a mask be worn at all times, and although many miners complain about how cumbersome the masks are, it is crucial to wear them to avoid black lung disease.
Black lung disease is a very serious condition, and if you believe you may have developed the disease, seek medical attention immediately. If you or a loved one has developed a lung disease like black lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or ILD, stem cell therapy may be a treatment option. Contact one of our patient care coordinators today at (800) 729-3065 to schedule a free consultation.