Key Points About Peumoconiosis

  • Pneumoconiosis is an interstitial lung disease (ILD) that is caused by breathing in harmful dust particles that damage the lungs over time.
  • People who work in occupations such as plumbing, roofing, coal mining, or in textile production are at risk for developing pneumoconiosis.
  • Symptoms of pneumoconiosis include a cough that produces phlegm, trouble breathing, and tightness in the chest.
  • There is no cure for pneumoconiosis, but symptoms can be managed with treatment. The first-line treatment is avoiding the substance that is causing your symptoms.


Pneumoconiosis is a lung condition caused by breathing in various dust particles that damage your lungs. It is a part of a larger group of lung conditions called interstitial lung disease characterized by scar tissue. 

It can take years for pneumoconiosis to develop. Over time, your lungs become inflamed because they cannot rid themselves of the dust particles, leading to scar tissue.Pneumoconiosis is called an occupational lung disease because you are likely to be exposed to dust in the workplace.Pneumoconiosis usually takes years to develop. Because your lungs cannot get rid of all these dust particles, they can cause swelling and inflammation in your lungs. Over time, this leads to scar tissue. 

Pneumoconiosis causes

Pneumoconiosis can develop when you are exposed to dust particles over a long period. Types of dust that may cause pneumoconiosis include:

  • Asbestos fibers may be in roofing materials or insulation.
  • Coat dust from mining.
  • Silica from sand or rock.
  • Beryllium from metal used to make products in the electronics and aerospace industries.
  • Aluminum oxide, cobalt, or talc.

When pneumoconiosis is caused by coal, it is also called coal workers' pneumoconiosis. If cotton fibers cause it, it is often referred to as black lung disease.

Pneumoconiosis risk factors

Working in an environment where you are exposed to dust particles such as asbestos, coal dust, or silica increases your risk of developing pneumoconiosis. Occupations that may put you at risk include:

  • Coal mining.
  • Textile workers.
  • Plumbers. 
  • Roofers or builders who work with asbestos.

There are precautions you can take to protect yourself from breathing in harmful dust. Precautions include:

  • Ventilating your workspace.
  • Wearing a face mask and protective clothing.
  • Wash your hands before eating or drinking.

Pneumoconiosis symptoms

Pneumoconiosis symptoms vary depending on the severity of your case. Some people experience don’t experience any symptoms, while others have severe symptoms. 

The most common symptoms associated with pneumoconiosis include:

  • Cough that produces phlegm.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Tightness in the chest.

Pneumoconiosis complications

The most common complication associated with pneumoconiosis is progressive massive fibrosis (PMF). This occurs as pneumoconiosis progresses, and severe scarring builds up in the lungs. Other complications include:

  • Lung cancer.
  • Progressive respiratory failure.
  • Heart failure as pressure builds up inside the lungs.
  • Tuberculosis (rare).

Pneumoconiosis diagnosis

During a clinic visit, your doctor will take a full medical history to determine if you have a history of working in industries where you may have been exposed to coal, asbestos or silica. If he or she suspects you have pneumoconiosis, your doctor will order an X-ray to look for lung nodules or masses.

Other tests your doctor may order to diagnose pneumoconiosis include:

  • CT scan of the chest.
  • Pulmonary function studies.
  • Biopsy. 

If you are a coal worker, the Federal Safety and Health Acts requires all underground coal miners ae to offer chest X-rays at three- and five-year intervals to check for pneumoconiosis.

Pneumoconiosis treatment

There is not a cure for pneumoconiosis. The goal of treatment is to stop the progression of the disease and help control symptoms.

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan customized to your specific case. 

Treatments include:

  • Lifestyle changes. Typically, the first step is to make lifestyle changes to help take Care of your heart and lungs. Lifestyle changes include maintaining a healthy weight, stopping smoking, exercising, and getting an adequate amount of sleep. 
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation. During pulmonary rehab, you will learn how to improve lung function through exercises and education.
  • Influenza shot. Getting your annual flu shot can help prevent you from contracting the flu and experiencing lung issues associated with it. 
  • Inhaler. An inhaler can help your lungs function correctly. 
  • Oxygen therapy. Some patients need supplemental oxygen to help them breathe normally.

It is essential to schedule regular doctor visits with your doctor to help manage your pneumoconiosis.

When to seek Care

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you have a long-term history of being exposed to dust particles such as asbestos, coal, or silica and are having trouble breathing.

Find a pulmonologist near you

Find a nearby doctor

Bon Secours locations that can treat you

Our locations that can treat you