A kind of coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP), black lung (shared name) is caused by inhaling certain types of dust (specifically coal dust) into the lungs. It is most common in those of the mining quarter – those who work directly in the coal mines or in situations where a high exposure to coal dust is present.
The inhalation of coal dust turns the lungs black (their normal color is pink), hence the name “black lung.” When it has developed considerably, it becomes progressive enormous fibrosis (PMF), an incurable disease that has been the cause of thousands of deaths (for the many who have been exposed to coal dust).
already though the exposure to coal dust ended many years ago (in developed countries) – every year, it is nevertheless responsible for the deaths of hundreds (both present and ex-coal mining workers [more so in the many under developed countries were safe-working practices are still seen to be lax]).
Symptoms – Usually a persistent chronic cough is first noticed, although the disease may have been present for many years (like most types of lung cancer, it is not usually diagnosed until it is in a more progressive stage). However, if it IS caught at an early stage, it may be possible to stop its progression.
Although black lung is not a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): neither an emphysema (a disease in which the lungs become stretched and breathing becomes difficult) at first, it is possible for it to progress into either (already cancer). Smoking may also have an impact, making black lung more prone to development.
Cause – The reason coal dust affects the lungs, is: when coal dust is inhaled, it combines with the macrophages (white blood cells) to create the growth of abnormal tissue within the lungs (called nodules). As these nodules begin to increase in size, airflow becomes restricted, and the blood oxygen level lowers (breathing becomes more difficult at this stage).
Prognosis (life-expectancy) – Black lung is considered present when the size of the nodules are around 10 millimeters, and when it has developed into PMF (it takes around 10 years for black lung to develop) the prognosis of a sufferer is considered to be rather short. However, if PMF does not develop, minimal side-effects to the disease may be experienced on a daily basis (the prognosis of a sufferer will be greatly increased).