Coal workers pneumoconiosis - an inhalational lung disease
Coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP) is a preventable and potentially fatal occupational lung disease without a clearly proven effective treatment. After successful control of the disease in some high-income countries, there has been a reappearance and/or increase in CWP cases associated with increased coal production and greater mechanization of mining techniques. In addition to excessive exposure to respirable dusts, increased individual susceptibility that manifests as a more severe and progressive disease has been seen in younger miners, and the predisposing factors have not yet been well defined. Effective dust monitoring and control are a crucial step to ensure employer adherence to the recommended respirable dust limits. Early disease recognition together with efficient reduction/elimination of ongoing respirable dust exposure is central to minimizing the emergence of the severe form, progressive massive fibrosis (PMF). Future research into the potential use of HRCT chest scanning, epidemiological identification of at-risk miners and validation of candidate biomarkers will advance scientific knowledge that aims to improve the health of miners in the coal industry.
Dr Jennifer Perret, M.B.B.S. F.R.A.C.P. Ph.D., is a Postdoctoral CAR Fellow who is working in the Allergy and Lung Health Unit, Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Melbourne, supervised by Prof Shyamali Dharmage. Her PhD in Respiratory Epidemiology was awarded 12 months ago and focused on host and environmental determinants of reduced lung function in middle age, including lifetime asthma, personal smoking, and environmental tobacco smoke exposure. She won the Heads' Award for PhD Excellence for 2016 and secured an internal early career researcher grant to pursue a program of air pollution work within the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study (TAHS). Specifically, this encompasses the interplay between outdoor air pollution, systemic inflammation and cardiorespiratory health, including the interaction between the effects of air pollution and smoking. She has also been involved in a "Black Lung" working group based at the University of Melbourne and is the lead author of an invited review article to the Journal, Respirology, which addresses respiratory health in coal miners.
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