Black Lung Symptoms, Causes & More

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By shirley
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Reviewed: dr. vanta
Article Sources Article Sources
  • 1. Publishing, Harvard Health. 'Pneumoconiosis.' Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/a/to/z/pneumoconiosis-a-to-z.
  • 2. 'Black Lung Disease.' Black Lung Disease | Michigan Medicine, www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/ug1566spec.
  • 3. 'Pneumoconiosis.' Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/pneumoconiosis.
  • 4. 'Learn About Pneumoconiosis.' American Lung Association, www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/black-lung/learn-about-black-lung.
  • 5. Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis (Anthracosis; Black Lung Disease; Coal Miner's Pneumoconiosis) By Abigail R. Lara, et al. 'Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis - Pulmonary Disorders.' Merck Manuals Professional Edition, Merck Manuals, www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/environmental-pulmonary-diseases/coal-workers'-pneumoconiosis?redirectid=60.
  • 6. 'Diagnosing and Treating Pneumoconiosis.' American Lung Association, www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/black-lung/symptoms-diagnosis.
  • 7. 'Mortality from or with Pneumoconiosis' - Minnesota Department of Health, www.health.state.mn.us/communities/occhealth/data/pneummortality.html.
  • 8. 'Pulmonary Function Tests.' Mount Sinai Health System, www.mountsinai.org/health-library/tests/pulmonary-function-tests.
  • 9. Black Lung (Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis) By The Manual's Editorial Staff Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021, et al. 'Quick Facts: Black Lung.' Merck Manuals Consumer Version, Merck Manuals, www.merckmanuals.com/home/quick-facts-lung-and-airway-disorders/environmental-lung-diseases/black-lung.
  • 10. 'Coal Worker's Pneumoconiosis.' Mount Sinai Health System, www.mountsinai.org/health-library/diseases-conditions/coal-workers-pneumoconiosis.
  • 11. 'Pneumoconiosis Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors.' American Lung Association, www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/black-lung/treating-and-managing.
Medical Expert Medical Expert

Black lung is a form of pneumoconiosis, a lung disease that develops when people inhale mineral dust particles over a long period of time. In the case of black lung, the damage is caused by carbon particles people are exposed to when working around coal, graphite, lamp black or carbon black.1Publishing, Harvard Health. ‘Pneumoconiosis.’ Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/a/to/z/pneumoconiosis-a-to-z.

Since black lung often develops in coal miners, it's also referred to as coal workers' pneumoconiosis or CWP. The term black lung derives from the fact that the lungs of afflicted people appear black instead of their normal pink color. Black lung has two forms: simple and complicated.2‘Black Lung Disease.’ Black Lung Disease | Michigan Medicine, www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/ug1566spec.

1. Simple Pneumoconiosis

As people breathe in irritants, such as coal dust, the lungs try to eliminate the foreign substances. During this process, inflammation develops, and in some cases, scar tissue begins to form. This scar tissue creates round, thickened areas referred to as nodules. The number of blood vessels and air sacs in the lungs diminishes as the damage progresses. This stage is known as simple coal miners' pneumoconiosis.3‘Pneumoconiosis.’ Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/pneumoconiosis.,4‘Learn About Pneumoconiosis.’ American Lung Association, www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/black-lung/learn-about-black-lung.

It may take years for lung damage to become apparent, and symptoms may not develop until many years after exposure occurs.4‘Learn About Pneumoconiosis.’ American Lung Association, www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/black-lung/learn-about-black-lung.

Black Lung

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