How does CWP affect your lungs?
When coal dust accumulates in the lungs, a coal macule may form. A coal macule is a combination of coal dust and macrophages. As the disease progresses, macules can develop into a coal nodule, an abnormality of the lung tissue. In time, a type of emphysema and fibrosis may develop.
Lung nodules wider than 1 cm (0.4 in.) have been accepted as evidence of progressive massive fibrosis (PMF), although some organizations say a minimum width of 2 cm (0.8 in.) is necessary. Nodules may grow to a large size and hinder or stop the airflow in the lungs' airways.
How is CWP diagnosed?
CWP is diagnosed through an occupational history and chest X-rays. Lung function tests may be used to determine how badly the lungs are damaged.
Occupational history is very important to the diagnosis of CWP-if a person has not been exposed to coal dust, he or she cannot have CWP. The occupational history should include not only recent and past full-time employment, but also summer jobs, student jobs, military history, and short-term jobs.
The diagnosis of CWP has legal public health implications, since some states require that all cases be reported.
Can CWP be prevented?
CWP can be prevented by controlling dust and having good ventilation in the workplace.
How is it treated?
There is no proven effective treatment for CWP, although complications can be treated.
There are several U.S. laws regarding CWP and its treatment, and the government may help pay for treatment. But to be eligible, you must be totally and permanently disabled by this disease. Most miners aren't eligible for federal black lung benefits. For information on organizations dealing with mining and black lung disease, see the Other Places to Get Help section of this topic.