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Black Lung Disease: Coal Miners’ Nightmare; How to Prevent it

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Black lung disease or Coalworker’s pneumoconiosis is a potentially deadly disease which causes damage to the lungs when coal dust is inhaled over a long period.

The disease has been diagnosed in workers working underground and in Open-pit areas and is the leading health-related issue that comes up from prolonged exposure to coal dust.

Black lung disease can result in chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer. Sadly, due to lack of awareness, most miners don’t learn that they have contracted this disease until they are retired.

Managing coal dust and fugitive dust has been a neglected problem in the construction, infrastructure and mining sectors. This has led to investigations by government agencies, unions and medical associations.

What is the coal industry doing to prevent black lung disease?

In the US,  Under the government’s Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program, Screening tests are provided to miners which report early changes in the lungs. Using this information, the miners can decide to work further in mines or not.

Also, to prevent miners from inhaling coal dust, the law has been modified to decrease the legal dust exposure to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air from 2.0 milligrams.

To decrease dust intensity, mine companies are using dust suppression like

  • Spraying water to settle down dust out of the air.
  • Increase airflow in tunnels to move dust out more quickly,
  • Providing miners to wear respiratory gears.

Some Preventive Measures:

Black lung disease is originated from environmental factors, so it is preventable by limiting or eliminating exposure to coal dust.

Miners and people who work around heavy dust creating areas can lower their inhalation of dust following simple precautions:

  • Use masks during the work and the transportation
  • Use Ventilation systems in the mines in times of heavy dust release.
  • Stop eating or drinking in open areas around the mines
  • Wash off coal dust on the body and clothes as soon as possible.

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