Illnesses from Dust

Lung damage caused by rock and mineral dust is a major health problem. Whether you are mining underground or above ground, you may develop lung damage if:

  • dust covers your clothes, body, and equipment as you work.
  • you cough a lot and have trouble breathing.
A man using a jackhammer wears a mask and gloves. A man working nearby does not and is coughing.

Once dust has damaged the lungs, there is no way to reverse the damage. Dust is a threat both to mineworkers and to communities near mines.

The most dangerous kinds of dust are coal dust, which causes black lung disease, and silica dust, which causes silicosis. Dust that contains asbestos (which causes asbestosis) or heavy metals is also dangerous.

Signs of lung damage

Dust from mining can make it difficult to breathe. Large amounts of dust can make the lungs fill with fluid and swell up. Signs of lung damage from dust include:

  • shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing
  • coughing up green or yellow sputum (mucus that comes up from the lungs)
  • sore throat
  • bluish skin at ears or lips
  • fever
  • chest pain
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness

Black lung disease, silicosis, and asbestosis, are serious conditions with no cure. It is best to prevent exposure to harmful dust. Because these diseases worsen very quickly, by the time you have signs all you can do is keep the disease from getting worse. If you have any of the signs above, or have been exposed to these kinds of dust, see a health worker right away.

Because smoking greatly increases the risk of lung damage from dust, it is particularly important that miners do not smoke tobacco.

Black lung disease and silicosis

Black lung is caused when coal dust blocks the lungs, causing severe and permanent breathing problems. Underground coal miners, and children and women who work separating rocks from coal, are most affected by black lung.

Silicosis is caused by exposure to silica dust. Silica is a common mineral released from sand and rocks during mining, exposing many miners to harm.

Illnesses from Dust

Black lung and silicosis cannot be cured. But you can reduce the suffering they cause.

  • Drink plenty of water to help loosen mucus from the lungs.
  • Keep breathing passages open. Fill a bowl with steaming hot water and strong-smelling herbs such as eucalyptus, oregano, mint, or thyme. Put your head over the bowl, cover yourself with a towel or cloth, and breathe the vapors. Do this for 15 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  • Medicines called bronchodilators can help open the breathing passages. The kinds that are inhaled work fastest.
  • Hospitals may give oxygen to help a person breathe more easily.
  • Home-made cough syrup can reduce painful coughing. Mix:
1 part honey 1 part lemon juice Take a teaspoonful
every 2 or 3 hours
  • Some people believe dairy foods like milk, cheese, and butter make mucus thicker and more difficult to cough up. If eating these foods makes you feel worse, avoid them as long as you can get good nutrition from other foods.
IMPORTANT! It is not true that drinking alcohol clears the lungs of dust. Drinking alcohol only makes health problems worse.
Thanks Hesperian Health Guides for this information!

Qld seeks to improve black lung screening with new standards

The Queensland government has introduced new accreditation standards for people conducting the compulsory lung function test on the state’s 30 000 coal miners, as part of its reform to tackle black lung disease.

“The new standards will ensure quality tests, so if a coal mine worker has lung function issues, those signs will be picked up immediately,” Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said on Wednesday.

“Early identification of black lung, or any other lung disease, is critical. Bringing spirometry tests up to world-class standard is another measure, on top of our compulsory chest X-ray reforms, to protect the health of our coal mine workers.”

The Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand, the region’s leading lung health peak body, will develop the new standards, which will come into effect by the end of 2017.

These standards will set out clear requirements for medical practices conducting the tests, including training for staff members, spirometry testing and interpretation, spirometry equipment, and quality control.

Lynham said an independent body would be appointed to check standards and accredit medical practices conducting the tests.

The changes flow from the independent Monash University review into the Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme. As an immediate response to the review, practices have been required to meet the requirements set out in the QueenslandHealth guidelines.

However, the review recommended additional training for individuals conducting the tests, the use of accredited facilities, and ongoing quality assurance. The revised screening programme implements these recommendations.

Coal miners’ compulsory chest X-rays have been assessed at least twice since July, first by an Australian radiologist and then by US-based experts. By the end of this year, both checks will be done by qualified B-reader Australian radiologists.

“These important reforms will work in tandem with the dual-reading of coal mine workers’ chest X-rays to ensure lung health issues are identified early,” Lynham said.

Other reforms in place from the Monash review include coalcompanies providing dust monitoring data to the Mines Inspectorate every three months for publishing online, black lung becoming a notifiable disease, meaning miningcompanies must report known cases to the QueenslandMines Inspectorate, and coal mine workers permanently retiring from the industry being able to ask their employer for a retirement examination, including respiratory function and chest X-ray.

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has welcomed the latest reforms, with CEO Ian Macfarlane saying the industry is fully cooperating with government to ensure the medical assessment system is improved and industry operates under best practice so that this disease is eradicated.

“Everyone involved wants to right the wrongs of the past and we want to make sure that we detect cases and this is a major step forward to correct what was previously deficient in the assessment of lung function,” Macfarlane said.

Since May 2015, 21 Queensland miners have been diagnosed with coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, which is caused by long-term exposure to respirable coal dust.

Article found at Mining Weekly

Hope you found these articles on Illnesses from Dust informative. Have a great day! Chris

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

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