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Pneumoconioses in the workplace

Pneumoconiosis is a form of interstitial lung disease, or lung disease that causes scarring to lung tissue. The most common types of pneumoconiosis are asbestosis, silicosis and black lung, which is properly called coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. Workers in New Jersey should be aware that these are all caused by the inhalation of certain particles. In the above-mentioned cases, the particles would be asbestos fibers, silica dust and coal mine dust.

Dust containing other elements like aluminum, graphite, iron and talc can lead to pneumoconiosis, but this is not as frequently reported. Workers who develop asbestosis, silicosis or black lung disease may not show any symptoms until years later. By that time, they may experience lung impairment and disabilities.

In 1995, NIOSH established a recommended exposure limit when it comes to coal mine dust, updating its information in 2011. NIOSH’s REL stands as an accurate limit that can reduce miners’ risk for developing black lung after a lifetime.

Additionally, there are measures in place for detecting black lung early on. As part of the Enhanced Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program, NIOSH can send mobile units to coal mines for examinations. Radiological imaging, now taken through digital computer technology, can detect early signs of the disease. Those who test positive may be transferred to low-dust jobs.

Exposure to harmful dust particles, and the injuries resulting from it, may be enough to justify a claim under workers’ compensation law. Victims may file for workers’ comp benefits without needing to show that anyone was negligent, but at the same time, they may be denied benefits if the employer proves that the worker was negligent. This is why victims may want to see a lawyer once they achieve maximum medical improvement. A lawyer may also explain how one can opt for a settlement.