One of the duties I perform is that of an examiner for the Department of Labor, specifically focused on lung disease caused by exposure to coal dust. The formal name for this disease is Coal Worker’s Pneumoconiosis (CWP). The effect of coal dust on the lungs has been known since the time of Hippocrates. Coal dust causes scarring, called fibrosis, to occur in the lungs along with the accumulation of nodules of coal dust which can be seen on x-ray. The nodules may coalesce and result in large conglomerations. Patients with this disease have cough and shortness of breath, and may also develop airflow obstruction. However, the disease results in a life-altering condition after years of exposure, often after the miner has left the industry, or the mine has closed down, or the company has gone out of business.
I bring this to your attention now because the incidence of CWP may be increasing around the world. The US has strict rules concerning the levels of dust permitted in coal mines. In Australia, where coal mining remains a major industry, a surge of new cases of CWP is setting off some alarms. The current US administration has promised to revitalize the coal industry. The workers in this new revitalization need to protect themselves from serious long term disease. New monitoring equipment may help. Currently, a new piece of monitoring equipment, a continuous personal dust monitor, allows miners to monitor their own dust exposure.