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Definition of Anthracosis
Anthracosis – Black Lung – a lung condition resulting from long-term exposure to coal dust, also called coal worker’s PNEUMONOCONIOSIS (CWP) and black lung disease.
There are two types: simple and complicated. In simple anthracosis the coal dust coats the LUNGS in wide distribution, and the IMMUNE RESPONSE encapsulates the dust particles without causing scarring (fibrosis).
This is the most common type of anthracosis and may generate no symptoms or mild symptoms such as DYSPNEA (shortness of breath) with exertion and chronic COUGH. The doctor may detect simple anthracosis during routine medical examination or screening for lung disease.
Diagnosis generally considers X-RAY findings in combination with history of exposure to coal dust. The doctor may also conduct BRONCHOSCOPY to examine the inner bronchial structures, which have a characteristic black appearance.
Complicated anthracosis becomes aggressively fibrotic, though doctors do not know what causes it to do so. It continues to progress even after exposure ends, and may result in disabling obstructive lung disease. Symptoms include worsening cough and dyspnea. About 15 percent of coal workers who have simple anthracosis develop complicated anthracosis.
Improvements in mining techniques and conditions, including environmental filtration systems, have greatly reduced the amount of dust coal mining operations produce. Those who work as cutters, loaders, and continuous mining operators face the highest risk for exposure. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates permissible levels of dust and worker exposure. Diagnosis of new cases of anthracosis is steadily declining as a result. Federal health programs provide medical care and other benefits for coal workers who have anthracosis.