Workers in Pennsylvania on job sites that put them into contact with coal dust might be interested to learn about black lung disease, also called pneumoconiosis. Black lung disease is an occupational disease without a known cure. People who work directly with coal, such as in coal mines or storage areas for coal are obviously at risk, but there are many other places that could put workers at risk from black lung disease.
Black lung disease is an interstitial lung disease that comes in two forms: simple and complicated. The simple type is also called coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. The complicated version is called progressive massive fibrosis. People could develop the disease by breathing in coal dust, which damages their lungs. The coal dust also causes inflammation in the walls of air sacs that causes scarring overtime. This then results in a hardening of the lungs, difficulty breathing and possibly further complications. Black lung disease might lead to lung cancer, respiratory failure, pulmonary tuberculosis or a type of heart issue called cor pulmonale.
Doctors can treat symptoms of the disease but not the disease itself. Symptoms might not appear for years. In addition to people who work directly with coal, employees in places that manufacture carbon electrodes or carbon black might also be at risk. Carbon black is a component in rubber goods, including tires. Places with large furnaces might have carbon electrodes in the air.
People who develop an occupational disease like pneumoconiosis might be entitled to compensation from their employers or former employers. An attorney could assist workers get the recompense they need for medical bills and other financial concerns caused by their health condition. This might include bringing appeals against insurance companies or employers responsible for the unsafe working conditions.
Source: American Lung Association, “Understanding Pneumoconiosis”, November 11, 2014