Industrial Disease Claims For Black Lung Disease

Black Lung Disease occurs when a person is exposed to coal dust over an extended period of time or to extreme amounts of the dust. It irritates the sensitive tissue in the lungs and can lead to several diseases including pneumoconiosis, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Miners and ex-miners have filed industrial disease claims for the suffering which this disease has caused them.

There are two forms of the disease with varying levels of seriousness. Simple pneumoconiosis is not usually disabling however the complicated form of pneumoconiosis can be disabling. It can lead to medical problems including pulmonary tuberculosis or failure of the right hand side of the heart. The people most affected are over the age of 50 and worked in the coal mines before the industry slowed down in Britain. This is reflected in the profile of ex-miners who are making industrial disease claims. Smoking does not increase your chances of developing pneumoconiosis however the effects of smoking on the lungs by reducing its function can make the symptoms of pneumoconiosis worse. The symptoms of pneumoconiosis include a chronic cough and shortness of breath.

Emphysema is part of a range of lung conditions know as ‘Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease’. Although it is not only miners who are at risk from developing the disease, coal dust is a major factor in the onset of the emphysema. Other risk groups include smokers and some people can inherit it as they are born with a deficiency of a vital protein for lung function. Coal dust changes the balance of chemicals which regulate the contraction and expansion of the lungs during breathing and when this occurs the lungs lose their elasticity and the alveoli over-inflate. When the alveoli over-extend they get damaged and this is irreversible, the lungs are unable to transfer as much oxygen to the bloodstream and shortness of breath occurs. Industrial disease claims are filed because these breathing difficulties can make everyday life hard.

Chronic Bronchitis
Coal dust can cause irritation to the airways and this causes them to narrow and the cilia (small hairs which pass mucus along the airways) to be paralysed. When you have chronic bronchitis you suffer from long-term mucus production which can cause coughing for long periods of time. Because the cilia have been paralysed, the mucus is not shifted out of the airways. Chronic bronchitis lasts for 2 years but if the problems persist it can turn into chronic obstructive bronchitis because the lungs get damaged and obstructed. This can then develop into emphysema.

Whereas if these diseases were caused by smoking, the symptoms may ease if the sufferer were to stop, this is not possible if coal dust is the cause. Therefore, many miners and ex-miners have filed industrial disease claims against their employers because they were not protected from the effects of the coal dust on their future health. As the mining industry slows down in the UK, we will start to see fewer and fewer of these claims however whilst people are suffering, they still have the right to seek legal justice for their medicinal problems.

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