Black Lung On The Rise Again In Australia’s Coal Mining Workers

Black Lung On The Rise Again In Australia’s Coal Mining Workers

The number of reported cases of black lung, a lung disease found in coal miners, has been on the rise in Australia. According to Bloomberg, up to 25 cases of the illness pneumoconiosis have been confirmed in the state of Queensland.

Black lung disease is caused by the inhalation of coal dust over extended periods of time. Bloomberg reports that the illness’ sudden onset is most likely due to the limited control of dust in Australia’s coal mines and the poor use of modern mining technology.

“It is a ticking time bomb for the industry in Australia,” said David Lennox, a resource analyst in Sydney. “It’s a crisis that’s been a long time in the making and, over a long period of time, it will ultimately take lives.”

Since Queensland announced the resurrection of the illness, thousands of coal miners both retired and active have been seeking medical examinations for the disease.

As of 2014, there were a total of 66,211 lawyers actively working in Australia compared to the 1,268,011 practicing lawyers in the U.S. in 2012. According to Stephen Smyth, president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union, these active lawyers are preparing for the vast number of workers compensation claims certain to be filed.

“No one gave it much of a thought, to tell you the truth,” said Keith Stoddart, a 68-year-old retired coal miner. “When I started in 1970, they said there was no more black lung in the mines.”

Many seniors and younger workers know what to look for work-related illnesses such as musculoskeletal disorders or dermatitis. Even symptoms of common deadly ailments that aren’t work-related are often known such as heart disease, which kills up to 84% of seniors over the age of 65.

Symptoms of rare diseases such as black lung are typically unknown. For this reason, Stoddart reportedly shrugged off the pain he felt in his back until 2015 when he coughed up a black substance as well as blood.

Jason Bing, a 46-year-old coal miner who’s been working in Queensland for nearly 13 years, has also been diagnosed with the disease. Bing is currently in the process of suing previous employers including Anglo American, the third largest coal exporter in the world.

Bing’s lawsuit calls for $2 million AUS in compensation for failing to provide adequate protective equipment and ventilation that would make it safe to work in the mines. However, what makes the case so difficult to argue is that it can take up to “”>10 years for symptoms of black lung to appear. Yet, the failure to detect the illness may be the fault of Australia’s medical professionals rather than the illness itself.

“The connection between exposure and disease has been known for many decades,” said Tim Driscoll, a professor at the University of Sydney. “So, there seems to me to have been a failure of exposure control.”

According to Driscoll, the disease was most likely left undetected by medical professionals due to poor quality x-rays, poor communication, and x-rays never being reported. It’s for mistakes such as these that home health care businesses, as well as other medical professionals, are recommended to know about five types of insurance including Professional Liability Insurance.

The Queensland state government has since dedicated up to $25 million toward the improvement of coal mining conditions. “The Palaszcuk government’s focus has always been to eradicate this insidious disease that does not belong in the 21st century,” said Mines Minister Anthony Lynham.

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