Black lung, also known as Coal Worker's Pneumoconiosis, is a disease of the lungs that results from inhalation of the dust from coal. The disease typically appears in miners who have worked for a long time, but has been seen in miners who have worked for only ten years. Although not every miner gets the disease, about 5% of all coal miners do.
In the early stage of the disease, victims are still able to work without too much difficulty. As the disease progresses, it becomes harder for the victim to breathe and coughing will progressively get worse. The damage that coal dust does to lungs is irreversible and has led to many lawsuits.
The disease is typically diagnosed using X-rays of the chest, which can show build-ups of coal dust. X-rays are provided for free to coal miners in the United States by their employers under laws passed by the federal government. The laws created two mandatory programs. The first program states that a coal miner must be offered an X-ray within 6 months of starting work, and a second after three years. If the second X-ray shows evidence of coal dust damage, the miner must be offered a third X-ray two years later, and so on. The second program states that all miners must be offered an X-ray every five years within a six month timeframe.
Black lung is becoming less common, due to provision of safety equipment to miners and increased implementation of robotics. Miners are often given masks that filter the air that they breathe in order to prevent the dust from entering their lungs.