Surveillance and Monitoring of Pneumoconiosis at Work

Pneumoconiosis at work is a lung condition and an interstitial disease that is acquired related to one’s occupation and a restrictive lung disease. The word “pneumoconiosis” also refers to a cluster of lung illnesses due to breathing in of dust particles in the lungs, usually from a mining work. It is also called Black lung disease because of inhalation of coal dust. When this condition affects a person, his lung may be damaged usually by coal dust. The lung’s air sacs become swollen and the lungs become rigid or fibrotic because of the scarring that happens to the tissues amidst the air sacs.

Types of pneumoconiosis at work and diagnosis

There are two types of pneumoconiosis. Simple type or coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP) varies depending on how severe the condition is. They range from simple pneumoconiosis to the advanced type. The most serious or complicated variety is progressive massive fibrosis (PMF). This advanced type is disabling and usually life threatening.

During assessment of a patient, indicators of the disease include

Dyspnea or shortness of breath

Chest –ray may show certain indicators such as patchy areas, interstitial infiltrates, or honeycombing. This is a major predictor of a certain type of pneumonia and significant in predicting mortality.

Occupational history – usually coal mining

May also be diagnosed through pulmonary function tests

Most common type of pneumoconiosis

These days, the most common type aside from asbestosis is as mentioned, CWP which arises from inhalation of coal dust. There is a significant time interval from the time of exposure and symptoms of the disease. The time lag is often ten years for coal dust exposure and fifteen to sixty years for asbestos. Therefore, majority of new incidences of this disease or mortality rates indicate the conditions in the workplace in previous years.

Physicians who diagnose patients with this prescribed industrial disease should formally notify the employer with consent from the patient. The employer is the one responsible to let this be known to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Monetary support may be availed if the worker can present evidence they were engaged in an occupation for which his disease is prescribed and his condition is caused by exposure to contaminants at work.

Likely complications

Persons who have inhaled coal dust may or may not experience signs and symptoms over the years. Eventually, while the coal dust has remained at the lower part of the lung, it causes fibrosis. While the lung becomes fibrotic, the patient experiences difficulty breathing and may be anticipated to worsen in time. Likely complications of the disease are heart failure of the right portion of the heart; lung cancer; pulmonary tuberculosis, and respiratory failure.


In order to prevent the disease from developing, monitoring and surveillance are necessary. Assessors are tasked to take into account the facts and data on the work exposure and health effects of substances. They consider if there are settling limitations, maximum exposure limit, as well as occupational exposure standard appropriated. It may not be possible to totally eradicate incidences of contracted occupational diseases but they can be minimized by means of complying with proper safety measures such as sufficient ventilation, minimizing dust levels, and donning of face protectors to prevent dust from being inhaled.