Pneumoconiosis: What is it?

October 28, 2018

Pneumoconiosis is a group of diseases that includes asbestosis, silicosis and coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung.

According to the American Lung Association, pneumoconiosis is a general term given to any lung disease caused by dusts that are inhaled and deposited deep into the lungs. It’s usually considered work-related.

Not all types of dust cause pneumoconiosis. However, different types of dust cause different types of pneumoconiosis. Exposure to asbestos, silica and coal dust are the most common causes of pneumoconiosis, ALA states. Pneumoconiosis has no cure, but it can be prevented.


The severity of pneumoconiosis can vary widely. Workers who have pneumoconiosis may present no symptoms whatsoever – especially in the early stages of the disease. However, when symptoms start to appear, common ones include a cough with or without mucous, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and feeling winded even when at rest. Severe cases can result in death.


Unfortunately, pneumoconiosis has no specific treatments or medications. “Most treatments for patients with pneumoconiosis are aimed at limiting further damage to the lung, decreasing symptoms and improving quality of life,” ALA states. To help prevent pneumoconiosis, workers should wear personal protective equipment, including respiratory protection, whenever needed.