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Mining companies may be liable for conditions leading to CWP

Working in the coal extraction industry in Walker County, Alabama, can be a fulfilling occupation. However, WebMD warns that coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or CWP, is a debilitating and even fatal occupational disease that anyone in that profession should be aware of. Miners who manufacture carbon black and carbon electrodes, those who work directly in the mines, and those who mill graphite are particularly at risk.

A person who is constantly exposed to airborne respirable coal dust may develop a coal macule in the lungs, which is a patch consisting of white blood cells and coal dust. Macules often become lung tissue abnormalities that cause issues such as blocked airways, coughing and shortness of breath. A miner may not display symptoms such as these until later, when there is no longer exposure to the dust, but the severity of the disease is directly related to the length of time and the amount and type of dust that is inhaled.

CWP cannot be cured, but it can be prevented by minimizing exposure to sources of airborne respirable dust. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration is working to protect miners from coal dust by issuing a rule that requires mining companies to conform to much stricter standards. For example, dust in the air must be more closely monitored, and the employer must take action immediately when these exceed a certain level, which is half the amount of the previous allowable level. Miners should also receive closer medical attention so that early detection is more likely, and serious problems do not develop after exposure has ended.

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