According to new findings released by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Black Lung cases are on the rise.West Virginia University health experts feel that causes of black lung are complex but higher amounts of silica dust in the air, difficult airflow and longer exposure to dust increases the risk of developing black lung.These conditions may be contributing to the high prevalence of black lung which is being encountered by the miners in western Virginia, southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.
“In addition to my clinic in Morgantown, I also see black lung patients at the Cabin Creek Clinic in Dawes. I have been seeing a steady stream of coal miners from the southern part of West Virginia with both simple black lung and the more advanced form of black lung called progressive massive fibrosis. Black lung can be a very disabling disease. In milder cases, miners may notice a little shortness of breath, and more aggressive cases can result in inadequate breathing to perform even simple tasks, making the miners homebound, or even bed bound.
Anna Allen, MD, MPH Associate Professor Occupational Medicine, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences WVU School of Public Health
“Exposure to coal dust can take many years to cause noticeable black lung disease. Progressive massive fibrosis is the classic outcome of coal dust exposure, but lung disease from coal dust exposure includes other breathing conditions as well. Some people will have no symptoms despite an abnormal chest x-ray. Some people have a normal chest x-ray, but have symptoms such as chronic cough, increased sputum production or increasing shortness of breath. Some miners may have been diagnosed with other lung diseases, such as emphysema, chronic obstructive lung disease or chronic bronchitis, which is actually underlying black lung disease. The variability in the disease symptoms and the resemblance to other common lung diseases can make it difficult to truly know the numbers of people with black lung disease.”