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'
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
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?
is no proven effective treatment for CWP, although complications can be
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.