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Coal worker's pneumoconiosis


Coal worker's pneumoconiosis is a lung disease that results from breathing in dust from coal, graphite, or man-made carbon over a long period of time.

Alternative Names

Black lung disease; Pneumoconiosis; Anthrosilicosis


Coal worker's pneumoconiosis occurs in two forms: simple and complicated (also called progressive massive fibrosis, or PMF).

Your risk of getting coal worker's pneumoconiosis depends on how long you have been around coal dust. Most people with this disease are older than 50. Smoking does not increase your risk of developing this disease, but it may have an additional harmful effect on the lungs.

If coal worker's pneumoconiosis occurs with rheumatoid arthritis, it is called Caplan syndrome.


Exams and Tests

The doctor will do a physical exam and listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. A chest x-ray or chest CT scan will be performed. You may also need lung function tests.


There is no specific treatment for this disorder. You should avoid further exposure to the dust.

Support Groups

For additional resources, see lung disease support group.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome for the simple form is usually good. It rarely causes disability or death. The complicated form may cause shortness of breath that gets progressively worse.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Call a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop symptoms of coal worker's pneumoconiosis.


Wear a protective mask when working around coal, graphite, or man-made carbon. Companies should enforce the maximum permitted dust levels. Avoid smoking.


Cowie RL, Murray J, Becklake MR. Pneumoconioses and other mineral dust-related diseases. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 65.

Samet JM. Occupational pulmonary disorders. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 93.

Review Date: 
Reviewed By: 
Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.