Washington County Durham


Memories of  Coal Mining


Pneumoconiosis / Black Lung

( Miners' Disease caused by Inhaling Coal Dust )

Black Lung disease can develop when coal dust is inhaled over a long period of time. This dust is made of dangerous carbon-containing particles that coal miners are at risk of inhaling, which is why it is mostly considered an occupational disease.

When the coal dust is inhaled, the particles can travel through the airways all the way into the alveoli (air sacs) that are deep in the lungs. After the dust particles land and settle in the lung, lung tissue may try to get rid of the dust particles, causing inflammation as the body tries to fight the foreign particles. In some cases, the inflammation is severe enough to cause scar tissue to form. The damaging effects of the inhaled coal dust may not show up for many years, and many patients don’t develop symptoms until long after their initial exposure.

Symptoms of Black Lung disease can take years to develop. In early stages, the most common symptoms are cough, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Sometime the coughing may bring up black sputum (mucus). These symptoms may initially occur after strenuous activity, but as the disease progresses, they may become present at rest as well. If the scaring is severe, oxygen may be prevented from easily reaching the blood. This results in low blood oxygen levels which puts stress on other organs, such as the heart and the brain.

[ Information from American Lung Association ]

Radiography Leaflet
Who remembers the  'X-RAY Van'  carrying out tests at their Colliery?

It's a well known fact that many thousands of British Coal Miners lost their lives in underground explosions,
and numerous others suffered fatal / life-changing accidents, underground and on the surface.
It's less well-known that 'Black Lung' blighted the lives of countless others.

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Elemore Pay Slip 1 - Compensation
Pneumoconiosis Compensation for former Elemore Miner, Charles Richards.

Elemore Pay Slip 2 - Compensation
Pneumoconiosis Compensation for former Elemore Miner, Charles Richards.

Bob says, "My wife’s Grandfather was Charles Richards from Easington Lane.  He died in December 1949 at the age of 47.
Charles had worked at Elemore since leaving school and, because of his condition, was moved to lower-paid Surface Duties.
Also due to his debilitating 'Black Lung' illness, he later spent a period of time in an Isolation Hospital at Chester-le-Street."

"We have letters from the NUM at Redhills, from 1949 and 1950, which suggest compensation was refused three times, once
six months before his death, and twice after his death.  This resulted in a court case in December 1950 where a posthumous
award was made.  It's thought that Charles may have been the first Durham Miner to receive compensation."

[ Leaflet, Paynotes & Information: Thanks to Bob Peacock. ]

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In my time working for N.C.B / British Coal, the standards of Underground Ventilation & Dust Supression were vastly improved.
Stringent Regulations  -  Better Equipment & Training  -  Appointments of Colliery Ventilation Officers and a specialist Area Ventilation Engineer.

In the early 1980s, American, Digital Equipment Corporation, PDP-11 Computers, were installed in air-conditioned rooms at each Colliery Surface.
These computers were connected to Electronic Outstations at key locations underground. This allowed Colliery Conveyor Systems and the Mine Environment to be controlled & monitored from the Surface Control Room. A DEC Engineer told me that PDP-11s were on Polaris Nuclear Subs!

( Jim )