Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Black Lung Disease - Topic Overview

What is black lung disease?

Black lung disease is a common name for any lung disease that develops from inhaling coal dust. This name comes from the fact that those with the disease have lungs that look black instead of pink. Medically, it is a type of pneumoconiosis called coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP). There are two forms: simple CWP and complicated CWP, which also involves progressive massive fibrosis (PMF).

The inhalation and accumulation of coal dust into the lungs increases the risk of developing chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Recommended Related to Lung Disease/Respiratory Problems

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is a life-threatening condition that gets worse over time, but treatments can help your symptoms so you can live better with the disease. It may take some planning, but plenty of people who have it find ways to do all the things they love, just as they did before they were diagnosed. Having pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) means that you have high blood pressure in the arteries that go from your heart to your lungs . It's different from having regular high blood pressure...

Read the Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension article > >

What causes coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP)?

The inhalation and accumulation of coal dust causes coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP). This stems from working in a coal mine, coal trimming (loading and stowing coal for storage), mining or milling graphite, and manufacturing carbon electrodes (used in certain types of large furnaces) and carbon black (a compound used in many items, such as tires and other rubber goods). Because CWP is a reaction to accumulated dust in the lungs, it may appear and get worse during your exposure to the dust or after your exposure has ceased.

The severity of CWP depends on the type of coal dust, how much dust was in the air, and how long you have been exposed to it.

Is CWP the same thing as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?

No. Although CWP may share many of the symptoms of emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis (which are also known as COPD), CWP is not COPD and is not treated like COPD.

What is the course of CWP?

CWP starts with the inhalation and accumulation of coal dust in the lungs. For many, there are no symptoms or noticeable effect on quality of life. There may be a cough and sputum (mucus) from inhalation of coal dust, but this may be more a matter of dust-induced bronchitis. As CWP progresses and is complicated by PMF, a cough and shortness of breath develop, along with sputum and moderate to severe airway obstruction. Quality of life decreases. Complications of CWP include cor pulmonale.

Smoking does not increase the prevalence of CWP, nor does it affect the development of CWP. But it may add to lung damage and contribute to the development of COPD. Coal workers who smoke are at much greater risk of developing COPD than nonsmoking coal workers.

1 | 2
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

man coughing
You may not even know you have it.
blood clot
Signs of this potentially fatal complication.
 
man coughing
When a cold becomes bronchitis.
human lungs
Causes behind painful breathing, fluid buildup.
 

chest x-ray
Slideshow
Bronchitis Overview
SLIDESHOW
 
Copd Myth Fact Quiz
QUIZ
Energy Boosting Foods
SLIDESHOW
 

lungs
Article
smokestacks
Article
 
woman coughing
Article
Lung xray and caduceus
Article