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Progressive Massive Fibrosis Among Coal Miners

The coal industry's importance to our area is well-known across the nation. We are known for the mining work that helps provide energy to the entire nation, as well as the hard-working men and women who do that work. Unfortunately, mining is dangerous work. In addition to the risk that comes along with working with heavy machinery and underground, workers in the coal industry are exposed to a number of hazardous chemicals every day.

Among the hazards to which miners are exposed is the dust generated by the process, which can cause many health problems. One of the most well-known diseases caused by coal dust is coalworkers' pneumoconiosis (CWP), better known as "black lung disease." CWP occurs when coal dust builds up in the lungs, causing damage that can include excessive scarring called fibrosis.

A particularly severe form of CWP, called progressive massive fibrosis (PMF), occurs when scarring becomes so thick that it creates large masses on the lungs. PMF causes serious breathing problems and other symptoms, and can be fatal.

Regrettably, PMF is more prevalent in our region of the country than in others. In fact, as long ago as 2005, researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found disturbing clusters of this rare illness in Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. NIOSH's 2005 article can be found online here.

The researchers at NIOSH found that while workers were developing CWP less often across the nation because of laws designed to protect miners, the most serious cases of PMF were still appearing. Disturbingly, the researchers found that the clustering of PMF cases might demonstrate "inadequate prevention measures in specific regions," stressing the need for "prompt investigations to identify preventable causes and appropriate additional actions to prevent further disease."

Coal has provided good jobs to the people of our region for a very long time. However, the men and women working in the industry deserve a safe place to work. Thankfully, as the NIOSH researchers found, prevention is possible. The law can strike a balance between industry and the health and safety of workers. Across the spectrum of industries that employ the men and women of our area, workers hurt on the job have been turning to Hartley & O'Brien for over 30 years. If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, we would like to help. Contact us today at (888) 510-6547!

Categories: Chemical Exposure
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