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Airways obstruction, coal mining, and disability.
  1. N L Lapp,
  2. W K Morgan,
  3. G Zaldivar
  1. Pulmonary Division, West Virginia University Medical Center, University Hospital, Morgantown 26506.

    Abstract

    It has recently been suggested that the inhalation of coal in the absence of complicated coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP) or smoking can lead to disabling airways obstruction. The cause of such obstruction has been variously attributed to emphysema or bronchitis. The frequency of significant airways obstruction in a group of United States coal miners seeking compensation for occupationally induced pulmonary impairment was therefore determined. In a sample of 611 "Black Lung" claimants there was only one subject who was a non-smoker and who in the absence of other non-occupationally related diseases,--for example, asthma and bronchiectasis--had sufficient airways obstruction to render it difficult for him to carry out hard labour. An alternative explanation for his reduced ventilatory capacity other than coal dust or smoking may be available. If the inhalation of coal dust in the absence of smoking and complicated CWP ever induces sufficient ventilatory impairment to preclude a miner from working, it is indeed rare.

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