On April 14, the University of Utah Miners Hospital hosted an educational program for miners and families at the Southeast Applied Technology College.
Headlining this event was Dr. Phillip Bryant, medical director and U of U hospital chairman, who spoke about the effects of coal mining on the lungs.
Many residents turned out for the event to learn about common lung ailments for miners.
Occupational lung cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are three respiratory conditions associated with mining.
Occupational asthma is the most common form of occupational lung disease. An estimated 15 percent to 23 percent of new onset adult asthma cases in the United States are due to occupational exposure.
Exposure within the workplace can also aggravate preexisting asthma.
Ninety percent of asthma cases are non-occupational and are generally due to a genetic disposition. But the disease can also be caused by working around irritants such as coal dust, that can be inhaled into the lungs, causing damage over time as it builds up.
Known as occupational Asthma, the condition is deadly if not treated and accounts for eight percent of cases.
Asthma cannot be cured, but if treated properly, can be maintained with medication.
More than 50 percent of people taking medication for asthma do not take it properly, increasing the chances of an attack severe enough for hospitalization, according to medical experts
The average cost for each hospitalization due to asthma is $4,304.
In addition, Bryant discussed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD - the fourth leading cause of death behind cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is also the number one cause of hospitalization in the nation.
COPD can be caused by inhaling irritants, including asbestos, coal, flour and inorganic dusts.
While 80 percent to 90 percent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases are caused by smoking, the coal industry is at the top of the list of industries with an elevated risk of COPD mortality rates, noted the hospital's medical director.
The least common condition covered was occupational lung cancer.
Approximately 20 to 30 percent of the male and five percent of the female population may have been exposed to agents that cause cancer in the lungs in their working lives.
Miners' pneumoconiosis, commonly know as black lung disease, is another common ailment caused by the inhalation of coal dust that becomes embedded in the lungs and causing them to harden and make breathing difficult.
An estimated 2.8 percent of coal miners are affected and about 0.2 percent have scarring in the lungs due to inhalation of coal dust. Each year, nearly 400 people die from black lung disease caused from coal mining.
Also with a high risk of having COPD are bakery and pastry workers, who inhale flour and other baking ingredients that can build up in the lungs and make it difficult to breath.