Science

Black Lung Disease Is Back In Australia After Half A Century

By Donna Bellevue , Feb 11, 2017 01:05 AM EST
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Health authorities say that black lung disease, a feared coal industry disease, has reemerged after a new case of the disease have been reported. The patient, a retired New South Wales (NSW) northern districts coal miner, has been diagnosed with the lung condition. Also know as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, it is the first reported case in Australia since the 1970s.

A potentially fatal respiratory disease in which patients cough up balls of black mucus, it kills 1000 miners a year in the US, and more than 6000 in China. However, it has barely been heard of in Australia since the 1960s. But since May 2015, at least 15 cases have been diagnosed in Queensland, confirming the disease had reemerged, putting the coal mining industry on high alert.

“Even though this insidious disease has not been confirmed in NSW for decades, one case of pneumoconiosis is one case too many,” Resources Regulatory compliance officer, Lee Shearer says. She adds that the agency is now investigating how the black lung disease case originated. They're also looking for breaches of any work health and safety laws by the mining company, The Herald reports.

A spokesman for the NSW Department of Industry comments that the NSW had one of the world’s most stringent coal regulatory regimes. He assures that an industry compensation fund was already in place. He adds that the department would be “carefully monitoring” the health condition of coal mine workers in Queensland, the News.com.au reports.

Since his diagnosis, the stricken miner said life was a struggle. He explains that he was devastated about being affected by a disease that should have no longer existed. He also worries about his workmates who might also be affected by the black lung disease as more of them spit up black mucus when they come up from the mine.

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