Pneumoconiosis is a debilitating lung disease caused by breathing in the particles of mineral dust. It is an occupational lung disease common among miners, welders, tunnel builders and other manufacturing positions. Oftentimes, symptoms don’t present themselves immediately, so by the time someone shows symptoms, the damage has already been done. Pneumoconiosis symptoms include: increased mucus, chronic cough, shortness of breath, pulmonary hypertension, chest tightness/pain, heart problems and cyanosis. Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for this condition, and traditional treatment options have been limited to things like oxygen therapy.
What is Pneumoconiosis?
The word pneumoconiosis stems from the Greek language and means “dusty lungs.” Pneumoconiosis is an occupational lung disease caused by breathing in particles of mineral dust. It is a form of interstitial lung disease, where the irritant is inhaled and then settles in the lungs, causing inflammation. The inflammation then causes scarring to the tissue, which, unfortunately, is irreversible. This transformation takes a while to develop so someone may not show symptoms until after several years of inhaling minerals. Over time, this causes the lungs to harden and interferes with the lung’s normal exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen. This puts a person at risk for heart failure, pulmonary tuberculosis and respiratory failure. Ultimately, pneumoconiosis can lead to death.
The main cause of the black lung is prolonged breathing of coal mine dust. It is an occupational disease that unfortunately has affected several coal miners, and, according to the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), it is estimated that roughly 1500 former coal miners die every year from black lung disease. The first legislations to protect coal miners were created in the 1950s, and have evolved ever since. Today the U.S. Department of Labor is the best point of contact for benefit information for current and former coal miners.
Silicosis is caused from prolonged exposure to silica dust. Silica is a naturally occurring crystal found in most rock beds. It is the main component of sand, so anyone works in mining, quarrying, tunneling, or works with certain metal ores could be at risk. Glass workers and sand-blasters are also at risk for silicosis. It is estimated that about two million U.S. workers are susceptible to develop silicosis. Intense exposure to silica can cause disease within one year, however, symptoms usually don’t present themselves for about 10-15 years. Cases of silicosis have reduced since Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) passed legislation requiring protective equipment for those working in these occupations. Other names for silicosis include: potter’s rot, miner’s phthisis, grinder’s asthma and other occupational-based names.
Siderosis is caused by breathing in dust or fumes containing iron ore particles. It is also referred to as the arc-welder’s disease because they are at the greatest risk to develop this disease. Other occupations that are at risk are miners, welders, cutters and solderers. Equipment such as a welder’s helmet does a great job in protecting workers from breathing in iron ore particles.
Occupations at the Highest Risk for Pneumoconiosis
- Miners (coal, metal, mineral)
- Ship building and repair
- Iron and steel foundries
- Construction workers
- Insulation workers
- Boiler makers
- Locomotive workers
- Manufacturing (pottery, glass, porcelain)
About the Lung Institute
At the Lung Institute, we are changing people’s lives across the nation through the innovative technology of regenerative medicine. We recognize the challenges of finding effective and sustainable treatment options for patients who might be suffering from debilitating lung diseases, and we are committed to providing patients a more effective way to address pulmonary conditions and improve quality of life. Our goal is to help patients breathe easier and bring life back within reach. For more information, visit our website at LungInstitute.com, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or call us today at (800) 729-3065.