"Among the many diseases incident to the coal miner, none come oftener under medical treatment, than affections of the respiratory and circulating organs. While the collier is subject -- during his short but laborious life -- to the other diseases which afflict the laboring classes in this country, such as inflammations, fevers, acute rheumatism, and the various eruptive diseases, he, at last, unavoidably, falls victim to lesions within the cavity of the chest, arising from the nature of his employment. In the present communication, it is proposed to lay before the profession a series of remarks, which I have been enabled to put together, with a view to elucidate the cause and progress of that very peculiar pulmonary disease, incident to coal miners, which I shall denominate Black Phthisis.
The rise and progress of the malady may be thus sketched: A robust young man, engaged as a miner, after being for a short time so occupied, becomes affected with cough, inky expectoration, rapidly decreasing pulse, and general exhaustion. In the course of a few years, he sinks under the disease; and, on examination of the chest after death, the lungs are found excavated, and several of the cavities filled with a solid or fluid carbonaceous matter."
|Coal miners; photograph courtesy of Kentucky Coal|
Coal mining was a dirty occupation. The dust got in miners' clothes and in their lungs. Before Black Lung Disease was well understood, causes of death would include almost any description of respiratory or circulatory illnesses. Most common were broncho-pneumonia, pulmonary phthisis, and later emphysema.