As promised, this is the beginning of several articles involving lung disease caused by the inhalation of industrial dusts.

Coal dust exposure is the most common dust associated disease I see in this area. Coal dust deposition in the lung causes the formation of “macules” or collections of coal dust particles around the small bronchial tubes and the associated small blood vessels. These small collections of coal dust are referred to a simple coal worker pneumoconiosis. Everyone who has worked for any length of time in the coal mining industry whether above or below ground has coal dust deposition in the lungs. Varying degrees of lung function abnormality may occur but does not always follow the amount of dust collection seen on x-ray. Coal dust may also contain silica dust from the rock formations that contain the coal and are ground up in the mining process.

In order to have a claim for damage due to coal dust exposure a patient must have at least two things: first, an abnormal chest x-ray interpreted by a so-called B-reader who is specially trained to look for coal dust findings on x-rays and second, the patient must have some pulmonary dysfunction on pulmonary function or oxygen testing. It is very common to have patients with abnormal chest x-rays with normal lung function.

If you are a former coal miner and interested in an evaluation, which most of the time is free, contact the Black Lung Clinic at 814-800-2309 for more information.