Dusty Work Can Lead to Breathing Problems
Chasing dust bunnies from under a couch can give rise to sneezing. But, some people deal with dust day-in-and-day-out in their jobs. For coal miners breathing in coal dust, they can develop the condition called black lung, medically called pneumoconiosis.
Symptoms of pneumoconiosis include tightness of the chest, shortness of breath, and coughing. Due to these breathing problems, individuals suffer from cyanosis, when the skin turns blue at the fingertips and toes due to low oxygen levels. Individuals also tend to suffer from bronchitis, an inflammation of the bronchial tubes. The inhaled dust can severely damage the small air sacs, alveoli, in the lungs causing emphysema.
Pneumoconiosis doesn't develop overnight. It takes exposure of dust over a long period of time. The type of dust an individual was exposed to will dictate the specific type of pneumoconiosis an individual suffers from. The various dust exposures include coal dust, silica, asbestos, beryllium, and natural fiber dust from fabric manufacturing. An individual can prevent developing pneumoconiosis by avoiding exposure to and inhalation of dust.
To diagnose pneumoconiosis a doctor will take a full occupational history. Chest X-rays are used to view how much dust has accumulated in an individual's lungs. Pulmonary function tests show “how much air an individual's lungs hold, how quickly an individual can move air in and out of their lungs, and how well an individual's lungs put oxygen into and remove carbon dioxide from the blood.”
Pneumoconiosis cannot be reversed. Doctors treat the symptoms an individual suffers from. Quitting smoking is strongly recommended. Bronchodilators are used to relax lung muscles to allow an individual to breath easier. If an individual's pulmonary function tests shows low blood oxygen, oxygen therapy can be prescribed.
Social Security Disability
Pneumoconiosis is evaluated by the Social Security Administration (SSA) similarly to chronic pulmonary insufficiency, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The SSA reviews pulmonary function tests for one-second forced expiratory volume in relation to an individual's height and forced vital capacity in relation to an individual's height. These tests may be required for both pre-bronchodilator tests and post-bronchodilator tests. The SSA will also look at impairment of gas exchange by looking at arterial blood gas values through a blood test that is “analyzed for oxygen pressure, carbon dioxide pressure, and pH.” Arterial blood gas values are evaluated in relation to where a testing site is in relation to sea level.
Social Security Disability applications require extensive documentation on an applicant's medical condition. With pneumoconiosis, the medical documentation includes X-rays and multiple pulmonary function tests. If you are considering applying for disability benefits, contact our experienced attorney to assist you.