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Pneumoconiosis is a term used to signify the accumulation of dust in the lungs and the reaction of the tissue to its presence. It is now generally restricted to the effects of coal dust and is also known as coal worker's pneumoconiosis.

The particles are approximately 2-5 micrometres in diameter and are retained in the small airways and alveoli of the lung.

The development of pneumoconiosis is directly related to total exposure to coal dust. The highest incidence of this disease is in miners who work at the coal face, especially those who work in poorly ventilated conditions.

Historically, pneumoconiosis occurred in about 12% of all coal miners and in up to 50% of those who mined anthracite for more than 20 years. There has been a dramatic reduction in incidence to about 2 per 1000, due to improved health and safety standards in the coal industry (1).


  • Souhami RL, Moxham J (Eds) 2004. Textbook of Medicine. 4th edn. Churchill Livingstone.

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