What is Black Lung Disease?


Black Lung Disease, also called Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis, is a respiratory or lung disease caused by inhaling coal mine dust.  The body is unable to remove the inhaled coal mine dust, thus it builds up in the lungs, causing the miner to have difficulty breathing.   Black lung is called such because the buildup of coal mine dust causes the lungs to look black instead of pink.

Coal mine dust damages the lungs in much the same way as tobacco smoke does.  However, unlike tobacco smoke, black lung is a latent and progressive disease.  This means that while a miner is working or immediately after retirement, it may appear that he/she does not have black lung but years later he/she may develop shortness of breath or other symptoms related to black lung.  These problems will continue to worsen as time passes.

In order for a miner to qualify for black lung benefits he/she must prove three main elements:

  1. He/she must prove that he/she has black lung disease;  
  2. His/her coal mine employment caused his/her black lung disease; and 
  3. That he/she has total respiratory disability caused at least in part by black lung disease.

Last Updated: 30 September 2009