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Upswing in black lung cases troubles doctors

Black lung has always been one of the greatest health concerns faced by coal miners in Missouri and throughout the country. However, as the 21st century dawned, it seemed that the disease was on its way to being defeated. Caused by exposure to coal mine dust, black lung cases were dropping dramatically, and there were only 31 cases of the most severe form of the disease noted by experts. However, as the century has progressed, the opposite has taken place, and hundreds of new cases of black lung are causing severe concern to doctors and epidemiologists as well as affected workers.

Epidemiologists working with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, reported 416 cases of complicated black lung, the most devastating form of the disorder, in only three clinics. The clinics' director had reached out to the agency after noting a worrying spike in the number of occupational disease cases in the clinics. These findings reflect the largest cluster of cases of black lung ever studied and reported.

The disease develops after coal miners inhale small, microscopic dust particles released from coal veins during underground mining. The particles enter miners' lungs, where they irritate them and provoke an immune response. Because the mineral particles do not respond, the immune response becomes increasingly severe, reducing the ability to breathe. Eventually, black lung can only be treated with a lung transplant.

Workers have good reason to be concerned about the upswing in cases of black lung. Thousands of cases are continuing to be diagnosed. However, it is just one of several occupational diseases that people can incur. Victims might want to meet with a workers' compensation attorney to see if they are eligible for benefits.

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