Occupational Pneumoconiosis Explained

Pneumoconiosis is a type of lung disease common among coal workers. Those in the trade would often call it Black Lung, referring to the color of the coal and the organ which it affects. There are several types of Pneumoconiosis depending on the material inhaled.

For instance, workers exposed to asbestos can have Asbestosis. Those exposed to silica have Silicosis. Kaoilin Pneumoconiosis is another variety. This is acquired through the inhalation of Chinese clay used in ceramics, cosmetics and toothpaste. Although they differ in cause, all of these types progress the same way.

How It Progresses

When a person inhales, the dust and other particles are usually trapped in the nose hairs, thus preventing them from entering the lungs. However, when a person is exposed to too much dust for prolonged periods of time, the nose hairs are not enough to filter the air. This causes dust and dirt to enter the lungs.

Now the lining of the lungs can be likened to the skin. When stones or other materials scrape against the skin, it causes wounds, which eventually heal and turn into scars. Unfortunately, scars do not retain the color or the elasticity of skin.

Similarly, the lining of the lungs can be scratched by the unfiltered dust and dirt. These scratches turn into scars, or more accurately, fibrous lesions. These lesions prevent the lungs from expanding and contracting fully, thus the patient has difficulty in breathing.

Furthermore, the linings of the lungs are responsible for the transfer of oxygen to the blood. The blood carries the oxygen to the different parts of the body. If not enough oxygen is circulated by the blood, the patient’s nails and lips can appear bluish.

Signs and Symptoms

Aside from bluish body part and difficulty of breathing, patients with Pneumoconiosis also experience cough, wheezing and shortness of breath. These symptoms can be indicative of other diseases; hence Pneumoconiosis often goes unnoticed for years. The only accurate way for doctors to determine that the diseases is indeed Pneumoconiosis is for them to take an x-ray of the patient coupled with a rigorous history taking.


Pneumoconiosis is a permanent disease and has no treatment. Once the fibrous lesions have developed in the lungs, there is no way of removing them, or returning them to their original state.

If a patient is diagnosed with this disease, they are immediately advised to change jobs or to stay away from the causative factors. Cigarette smoking exacerbates the difficulty of breathing felt by patients with Pneumoconiosis; hence it should be avoided as well.

Some doctors may recommend anti-inflammatory medication to prevent the airways from closing up. Pneumoconiosis can also expose the patient to other lung diseases such as pneumonia or bronchitis. To prevent this, it is advisable for patients to have a flu vaccine and to increase immunity through the intake of Vitamin C.


The best prevention of Pneumoconiosis is to stay away from work that can put one at risk of inhaling dust and dirt. For those already in the business, it is advisable to minimize exposure by wearing protective equipment such as masks or respirators.

Workers who are not provided with adequate equipment to prevent inhalation of dust particles must indicate so in their company’s work accident book. This can help with Pneumoconiosis claims later on.

Those with asbestos-lined houses or buildings should check for chips on the walls or any signs of deterioration. These should be removed and sealed away immediately by professionals.