CDC findings on black lung

Published: Feb. 8, 2018 at 9:35 PM EST
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A recent study by the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health confirmed the largest cluster of complicated black lung cases ever reported.

According to Carl Werntz, DO, MOH, an Occupational Medicine Physician at West Virginia University said the Mountain State has some of the bigger cases of black lung among miners especially in the southern part of the state.

This disease affects those who are exposed to coal mine dust and causes a fibrosis of the lungs. This means when a person develops black lung, they get scar tissue throughout the organ. The study shows that starting in the early 2000's, more people diagnosed with black lung started to increase, especially for the more severe cases.

"Almost all of that increase is in coal miners in Southern West Virginia, Western Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. The rates for the rest of the country continue to fall, " said Werntz.

He also said black lung impacts, everyone, differently. The longer the exposure to dust, the more risk of developing the disease. It can be controlled through treatment but it won't go away. If it's very advanced, one of the options is a lung transplant.

"The lungs really don't get better. You can treat it to help people breath a little bit better despite their black lung but once you have it, it doesn't get better on its own." said Werntz.