Understanding Pneumoconiosis

What is Pneumoconiosis?

Pneumoconiosis, also known as Black Lung Disease, is an occupational lung disease caused by inhaling coal dust. There are two types of pneumoconiosis— simple, known as coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP) and complicated, known as progressive massive fibrosis (PMF). Pneumoconiosis is a type of interstitial lung disease. In this type of disease: the lung is damaged (in this case, by coal dust); the walls of the air sacs are inflamed; and the lung stiffens from scarring of the tissue between the air sacs.

There is no known treatment for pneumoconiosis, but doctors treat the symptoms and complications of the disease.

Who Gets Pneumoconiosis?

People who work in jobs where they are exposed to coal dust get pneumoconiosis. This includes working in a coal mine or loading coal for storage, working in a graphite mine or mill, and manufacturing carbon electrodes and carbon black. Carbon electrodes are used in some large furnaces, and carbon black is used in tires and other rubber goods, as well as many other products.

What does Pneumoconiosis do to Your Body?

People who inhale coal dust may not have any symptoms for many years. Over time, however, as the coal dust has settled deep in the lung, it eventually causes the lung to harden. As the lung hardens, breathing becomes more difficult and gets worse over time.

Possible complications of pneumoconiosis include:

  • Cor pulmonale (failure of the right side of the heart)
  • Lung cancer
  • Pulmonary tuberculosis
  • Respiratory failure

How Serious is Pneumoconiosis?

Pneumoconiosis is not treatable or curable. How severe each person's disease becomes is the result of the conditions of his or her work during exposure to coal dust.  

>> Learn more about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of pneumoconiosis.