Thursday, July 30, 2015

Health Care and Black Lung

One of the most serious diseases that exists has been dreaded primarily by coal miners, and by those exposed to mining industries. Coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP), also known as black lung disease or black lung, is caused by long exposure to coal dust. It is common in coal miners and others who work with coal.

It is similar to both silicosis from inhaling silica dust, and to the long-term effects of tobacco smoking. Inhaled coal dust progressively builds up in the lungs and is unable to be removed by the body; this leads to inflammation, fibrosis, and in worse cases, necrosis.

Like all occupational diseases, black lung is man-made and can be prevented, according to the United Mine Workers. In fact, the U.S. Congress ordered black lung to be eradicated from the coal industry in 1969. Today, it is estimated that 1500 former coal miners each year die an agonizing death in often isolated rural communities, away from the spotlight of publicity. More details about the legislation to help miners with this disease can be found at this site: http://www.umwa.org/?q=content/black-lung .

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), there is no known treatment for pneumoconiosis, but doctors treat the symptoms and complications of the disease. 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.

People who inhale coal dust may not have any symptoms for many years, according to the ALA. 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

Pneumoconiosis (Black Lung) 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. More details can be located at this website: http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/pneumoconiosis/ .

According to the US Department of Labor, the Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation, or Federal Black Lung Program, administers claims filed under the Black Lung Benefits Act. The Act provides compensation to coal miners who are totally disabled by pneumoconiosis arising out of coal mine employment, and to survivors of coal miners whose deaths are attributable to the disease. The Act also provides eligible miners with medical coverage for the treatment of lung diseases related to pneumoconiosis.

The Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation has published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to address several issues that have arisen in administering and adjudicating claims under the Black Lung Benefits Act. The proposed regulations would:

·         Require parties to disclose medical information about the miner developed in connection with a benefits claim.

·         Clarify a liable coal mine operator’s obligation to pay benefits during post-award modification proceedings.

·         Clarify that a supplemental report from an examining physician is a continuation of the physician’s earlier report for purposes of the evidence-limiting rules.

The NPRM was published in the Federal Register on April 29, 2015. The public may submit comments on the proposed rule online at www.regulations.gov (follow the instructions on that web site) or by the other methods set forth in the NPRM. More material about this is located at this site: http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dcmwc/ and at this website: http://www.msha.gov/endblacklung/ .

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), your risk of getting coal worker's pneumoconiosis depends on how long you have been around coal dust. Most people with this disease are older than 50. Smoking does not increase your risk of developing this disease, but it may have an additional harmful effect on the lungs. If coal worker's pneumoconiosis occurs with rheumatoid arthritis, it is called Caplan syndrome.

The doctor will do a physical exam and listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. A chest x-ray or chest CT scan will be performed. You may also need lung function tests.  Wear a protective mask when working around coal, graphite, or man-made carbon. Companies should enforce the maximum permitted dust levels. Avoid smoking. You should avoid further exposure to the dust. Details can be sourced at this website: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000130.htm .

Although the overall percentage of Americans are not typically affected with this disease, there are many who are. Follow the recommendations of your health care provider. There are also financial resources available to assist you if you have developed the disease and are permanently disabled as a result. Be careful if you are in this industry.


Until next time.

1 comment:

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