Authored By: Candace Whitman
According to Reuters Health, a new study has shown that there has been a steady increase since 1990 in the number of black lung disease cases among U.S. miners. Black lung disease, or progressive massive fibrosis, is caused by prolonged over exposure to coal mine dust.
According to the American Lung Association, black lung disease is a slow developing disease that can be difficult to detect in its early stages. The possible symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, chest tightness, and varying severity levels of hypoxemia which is low blood oxygen levels. The disease can also cause the lungs to become scarred and black in color.
According to Carolyn Crist’s article for Reuters Health, while the number of miners has decreased in recent years, the number of those miners who have filed for Federal Black Lung Program benefits has been steadily increasing. The largest amount of cases appear in the Appalachian region of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
It is unclear what has caused this increase, so future research will sample the dust in active mines to study its size and components. Researchers will also study lung tissue samples from past and present miners to further understand the development of the disease.
Crist says that researchers “want to understand whether new mining techniques may create smaller dust particles that drive the disease deeper into the lungs or whether more toxic carbon or coal dust is being expelled from mines.”
Researchers hope they will be able to better understand black lung disease and its causes so that miners and other workers that are exposed to hazardous dust particles are able to work without the worry that it may eventually cost them their life.
To learn more about the study, click here to read Carolyn Crist’s article.