Detection of coal mine dust lung diseases

Lung disease is a very real threat to the health of miners.  Prevention of disease is always the best but it is useful to know what symptoms to look for so that any disease can be treated in it’s early stages.  Here is an interesting article relating to coal mine dust lung diseases.

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Detection of coal mine dust lung diseases

“Coal mine dust lung diseases (CMDLD) like CWP can take up to 10 years or more to develop, and even longer to produce noticeable symptoms.

While prevention is the best defence, identifying the disease in its early stages can prevent it from progressing to a point where it has an impact on your quality of life.

To screen for abnormalities, doctors use a combination of chest X-ray and lung function test results.

Lung function test (spirometry)
Spirometry is a standard test used to diagnose conditions that affect your lung function, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. To take a spirometry test, you breathe forcefully into a small machine called a spirometer.

Chest X-ray
As most early cases of simple CWP show no symptoms, regular chest X-rays are absolutely crucial to identifying the disease before it progresses.

If all tests are normal, no further action is required.

If your spirometry result is lower but not significantly so, you may need to have another assessment in a year’s time or sooner, depending on the cause.

You will be referred to a specialist for further assessment if you have any of the following:

  • spirometry results with more substantial decline in lung function
    abnormal chest X-ray
    unexplained, significant respiratory symptoms.

A diagnosis of CWP or silicosis doesn’t mean the end of your career in mining. But it does mean the types of roles you can perform will change. It’s important to remember that with the right management and precautions, a case of simple CWP is not life-threatening.

There is no cure for CWP. Once respirable dust has been incorporated into the lung tissue, it can’t be removed. However, you can slow or stop the progress of the disease by limiting your exposure to respirable dust at work and at home.

After spending a large part of your working life in mines, it’s natural to be concerned that a CWP diagnosis could exclude you from the industry in which you’ve developed years of job-specific skills.

A CWP diagnosis does mean that you will no longer be able to perform roles in environments with high dust levels. However, there are many roles available within the mining industry that are suitable for miners with CWP, including roles involving:

  • surface mine operations
    underground mining operations with controlled dust exposure (e.g. as electricians)
    outbye tasks away from the coalface
    maintenance and infrastructure.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Detection of coal mine dust lung diseases

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