Call for nationwide response to black lung

The peak body for respiratory health professionals has called for a nationwide response to the re-emergence of the potentially deadly black lung disease.

The re-emergence of black lung in Australia must prompt an urgent review into coal dust exposure levels and a national reporting scheme for the disease, a health body says.

A Senate inquiry into the recurrence of potentially deadly black lung, or coal workers' pneumoconiosis, began last month following six confirmed cases in Queensland.

The Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) on Thursday called for a nationwide response to the re-emergence of the disease, which was thought to have been eradicated in Australia decades ago.

"It is unacceptable that any new cases of coal workers pneumoconiosis should be occurring in Australia in 2016," TSANZ president, Professor Peter Gibson said.

"We urgently need to review the levels of dust to which coal miners are exposed and develop a national, standardised, diagnosis and reporting scheme ... independent of industry."

Unionists and activists have claimed there's been a black lung "cover-up" and the number of cases could be as high as 1000, although this has been slammed by the industry.

Black lung disease is caused by breathing in coal dust over long periods.

Prof Gibson said Australian standards permitted coal miners to be exposed to levels of dust that offered significantly less protection than in the UK and US.

Standards also differed between Australian states, he said.

TSANZ has made five recommendations to protect miners from black lung, including standardised coal dust exposure limits in line with international best practice and a comprehensive screening program for those at risk.

The call comes as the peak body for respiratory health professionals prepares to host a six-day meeting of lung health experts in Perth.

Source AAP

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