What is Black Lung Disease?
Black Lung Disease or Pneumociosis is a disease that affects miners from inhaling minute coal dust particles in the course of their mining work. Black Lung Disease or "Black Lung" as it is also called is similar to the affects of long term tobacco smoking or Silicosis from inhaling silica dust. Black Lung was thought to have been eradicated in the 1970s but has recently had a re-emergence in Queensland.
How Black Lung develops is by way of repeated and long term exposure to coal dust particles. Everyone has a certain amount of dust deposits in their lungs simply because of pollutants in the air, but the condition is usually asymptomatic. Similarly with coal miners, they may have some limited deposits of respirable coal dust from exposure, but it is not sufficient to develop the disease Black Lung. However, eventually the lungs' immunity will break down where there is prolonged exposure to high levels of the dust and will no longer be able to fend off the invading dust particles. The particles lodge in the area of lung where oxygen is processed, causing breathing problems and other lung related problems, including reduced tolerance to infections. The area where the particles lodge cause scarring to the lungs and can develop overtime into large areas of fibrosis in the lungs and even necrosis in severe cases. Even a small infection can later develop into large fibrotic material in the lungs causing significant injury to the coal miner.
Smoking does not increase the risk of developing Pneumoconiosis, but it may have an additional harmful affect on the lungs.
Why has Black Lung re-emerged in Queensland coal mining?
The reason for re-emergence of the disease has been put down to poor occupational health and safety by mining companies in failing to take proper precautions against the disease's reoccurrence. The disease was previousy eradicated by proper vigilance in suppression of coal dust at mining sites, proper ventilation systems, and regular monitoring of dust particle levels at mining sites. Workers should also undergo regular health checks to ensure any evidence of the disease is identified early and dust exposure at the mine is also identified.
Because the disease was thought to be eradicated, this resulted in mining companies becoming less diligent in their prevention systems for the disease. It has also meant that, until recently, miners' applications for statutory benefits and proper compensation for the disease have been rejected by Workcover Queensland and self-insurers, resulting in these injured miners having no entitlement to workers' compensation claims or to bring Common Law claims for their injury.
Miners' claims for the disease are now being accepted
In a recent case, Mr Keith Stoddardt of Middlemount in Queensland, made an application for workers' compensation for the disease which he said was contracted from mining work he had undertaken for many years in the course of his employment with Anglo American Coal in Queensland. Mr Stoddardt complained of pain in his lungs and difficulty with most of his daily activities, including even walking due to the breathing problems he has because of the disease. So often the disease is overlooked or dismissed because it was thought to have been eradicated 40 years ago. However, Mr Stoddardt has now had his workers' compensation for the disease accepted and is relieved that Anglo American is not objecting to his claim.
Other Queensland coal miners have not been as lucky and appeals by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union are being made to also have their claims accepted. The Union says that it is aware of 8 other confirmed cases of miners with Black Lung disease in Queensland.
The Black Lung issue has been taken before the Senate where an enquiry into the disease is ongoing. Mr Stoddardt appeared before the Senate enquiry and told them of what a relief it was for him to have his claim accepted. He told also of the massive impact the disease had had on his life and how it had impacted his daily functioning and relationship with his wife and family. He explained to the Senate Committee that he had been to hell and back with the disease. To read more about Mr Stoddardt's story go to the following link: Coal miner relieved to have his Black Lung claim accepted
Recognition of the disease's re-emergence is a big step toward the injury being properly identified and treated, and it has given Queensland miners the right to seek proper compensation and damages for the disease.
No cure for Pneumoconiosis
Unfortunately there is no cure for Black Lung which makes it more imperative that mining companies take the proper steps to ensure their workers are protected and the disease is once again eradicated from the mining industry in Queensland.
Treatment for the disease is palliative because nothing can be done to reverse the injury to the lungs. Treatment therefore consists of methods of trying to reduce breathing obstruction and reduce lung infections, and to control other associated symptoms of the disease.
The symptoms of the disease can include shortness of breath, recurrent cough, coughing up back mucus, high blood pressure, heart problems, and susceptibility to auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma (excessive skin hardening). Where the condition has resulted in massive fibrosis in the lungs, it will reduce life expectancy.
For more information on Pneumoconiosis or Black Lung Disease, go to the following link: Black Lung Disease
Have you have been diagnosed with Black Lung or sustained an injury in the course of your work?
If you have, then you should contact The Personal Injury Lawyers as soon as possible to ensure that you obtain the compensation and damages you should be receiving for your work injuries. As in the case of Mr Stoddardt, just because the workers' compensation insurer says that you do not have a work injury you can claim for, it does not mean that this is in fact the case. You may very well have a right to workers' compensation and Common Law damages. You just need the right people on your side, willing to fight for your legal rights and entitlements. This is what we at The Personal Injury Lawyers are all about. Getting you the best outcome for your case.
But remember, strict time limits apply to your case, so it is important that you contact us as soon as possible to ensure any claim you do have for you workplace injury is protected.
If you would like to discuss your work injury with us, please contact us on 1300 782 202 or you can submit one of our FREE Case Assessment forms on our website. We also have a Livechat Service you can contact us on or leave us a message and we will contact you. Our claim enquiry service is 24 hours, so you can always be assured someone is available to assist you. All initial consultations are FREE of any cost or obligation and are 100% confidential.
You can also ask for one of our FREE Claim Information Packs by clicking on the following link: Please send me a FREE Initial Claim Pack.