Coal Extraction and Black Lung

Coal Extraction and Black Lung
Coal is an indispensable fossil fuel that is very important to today?s society. With out coal, one would have to live without many of the luxuries we have today. There would be no lights to light a house, no movie cinemas, no electrical heaters, and no televisions or phones. ?Coal has many important uses, but most significancy in electricity generation, steel and cement manufacture, and industrial process heating. Coal provides over 23% of global primary energy need and generates about 39% of the world?s electricity? (Source 1). Coal is also used as fuel for steam locomotives, to make synfuels, and in home heating. Some other miscellaneous items made by coal are insecticides, paint thinners, batteries, disinfectants, varnish and insulin. (Source 2) Coal, obviously, is very important to our society and we cannot do without it. The extraction of coal from the ground, however, can be a dangerous process that has serious health effects.
The ways coal has been extracted from the ground has changed many times over time due to improved mining techniques and different geological formations. In the early history of mining a technique called bell pitting was used where the coal was ?obtained by digging it from where it appears on the surface? . This method was replaced by more efficient methods. Today, ?the three methods of extraction are open cast, drift and deep mine? (Source 3). These methods are not safe and many miners who work with these methods suffer many health problems. Coal miners suffer from many different health problems that are caused from mining. Among these diseases is the well known Black Lung. ?Black Lung is a legal term describing man-made, occupational lung diseases that are contracted by prolonged breathing of coal mine dust. Call in miner?s asthma, silicosis, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovovanoconiosis, coal worker?s pneumoconiosis, or black lung?they are all dust diseases with the same symptoms? (Source 4). Black Lung usually effects workers who are over 50 and who have worked as a miner for most of their lives. The symptoms of black lung are coughing, spitting, and breathlessness. Another symptom is that the lung has black pigmentation on it. ?In Severe cases, an enlargement and strain of the right side of the heart may occur. This is caused by chronic lung disease. The strain on the heart may eventually cause right side heart failure.? In miners? afflicted with black lungs later lives, they suffer from pulmonary crippleness and die a painful death usually at an early age. There is no cure for black Lung disease. Treatments are aimed at symptoms and complications. The only way to get rid of the terrible disease is to lower the amount of dust in mines and to lower the amount of time a worker is in the mines. The government has, in the past and present, passed many legslations and laws trying to suppress the amount of dust in the mines. Sadly, however, Black Lung still exists and is still a deadly disease that has no cure.

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