Coal is the largest domestically-produced source of energy, and the US coal industry directly employs over 120,000 people. Black lung has been identified as the most serious occupational health threat to the nation’s mining workforce. Since the 1990’s, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has compiled data which shows that the incidence of black lung disease among coal miners with more than 20 years’ tenure has more than doubled, and severe cases of black lung have recently been identified in miners as young as 39.
Black Lung Disease, also called Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis, is a respiratory or lung disease caused by inhaling coal mine dust. The body is unable to remove the inhaled coal mine dust, thus it builds up in the lu ngs, causing the miner to have difficulty breathing. Black lung is called such because the buildup of coal mine dust causes the lungs to look black instead of pink.
Coal mine dust damages the lungs in much the same way as tobacco smoke does. However, unlike tobacco smoke, black lung is a latent and progressive disease. This means that while a miner is working or immediately after retirement, it may appear that he/she does not have black lung but years later he/she may develop shortness of breath or other symptoms related to black lung. These problems will continue to worsen as time passes.
In order for a miner to qualify for black lung benefits he/she must prove three main elements:
- He/she must prove that he/she has black lung disease;
- His/her coal mine employment caused his/her black lung disease; and
- That he/she has total respiratory disability caused at least in part by black lung disease.
If you or someone you love has worked in the mining industry and has breathing problems, you should be assessed for black lung disease. Our goal is to effectively diagnose and treat you so that your quality of life can be maximized.