Coal Mine Dust Desquamative Chronic Interstitial Pneumonia: A Precursor of Dust-Related Diffuse Fibrosis and of Emphysema

Tomislav M Jelic, Oscar C Estalilla, Phyllis R Sawyer-Kaplan, Milton J Plata, Jeremy T Powers, Mary Emmett, John T Kuenstner


Background: Diseases associated with coal mine dust continue to affect coal miners. Elucidation of initial pathological changes as a precursor of coal dust-related diffuse fibrosis and emphysema, may have a role in treatment and prevention.

Objective: To identify the precursor of dust-related diffuse fibrosis and emphysema.

Methods: Birefringent silica/silicate particles were counted by standard microscope under polarized light in the alveolar macrophages and fibrous tissue in 25 consecutive autopsy cases of complicated coal worker's pneumoconiosis and in 21 patients with tobacco-related respiratory bronchiolitis.

Results: Coal miners had 331 birefringent particles/high power field while smokers had 4 (p<0.001). Every coal miner had intra-alveolar macrophages with silica/silicate particles and interstitial fibrosis ranging from minimal to extreme. All coal miners, including those who never smoked, had emphysema. Fibrotic septa of centrilobular emphysema contained numerous silica/silicate particles while only a few were present in adjacent normal lung tissue. In coal miners who smoked, tobacco-associated interstitial fibrosis was replaced by fibrosis caused by silica/silicate particles.

Conclusion: The presence of silica/silicate particles and anthracotic pigment-laden macrophages inside the alveoli with various degrees of interstitial fibrosis indicated a new disease: coal mine dust desquamative chronic interstitial pneumonia, a precursor of both dust-related diffuse fibrosis and emphysema. In studied coal miners, fibrosis caused by smoking is insignificant in comparison with fibrosis caused by silica/silicate particles. Counting birefringent particles in the macrophages from bronchioalveolar lavage may help detect coal mine dust desquamative chronic interstitial pneumonia, and may initiate early therapy and preventive measures.


Pneumoconiosis; Pulmonary emphysema; Silicosis; Anthracosis; Anthracosilicosis; Tobacco; Lung diseases; Coal mining; Pulmonary fibrosis

doi: 10.15171/ijoem.2017.1066

 pISSN: 2008-6520
 eISSN: 2008-6814

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