Former coal miner Percy Verrall has been diagnosed with 'Black Lung' after decades working underground. Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times
Former coal miner Percy Verrall has been diagnosed with 'Black Lung' after decades working underground. Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times Rob Williams

Deadly black lung disease fells former Ipswich coal miner

FORMER Ipswich coal miner Percy Verrall knew his job was dangerous but he never thought it would kill him one day.

Mr Verrall, 77, spent three decades working in coal mines across the region - and is now paying the price.

He was recently diagnosed with pneumoconiosis, or 'black lung' disease, as it is more commonly known.

The deadly disease is caused from long-term exposure to fine airborne coal dust in areas with poor ventilation.

It has not been seen in Queensland for nearly three decades.

Mr Verrall is one of three former underground coal miners who have recently been diagnosed with the crippling disease.

Former coal miner Percy Verrall has been diagnosed with 'Black Lung' after decades working underground. Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times
Former coal miner Percy Verrall has been diagnosed with 'Black Lung' after decades working underground. Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times Rob Williams

Mr Verrall, speaking to the Queensland Times at his Flinders View home, said each day had become a struggle.

He said he knew his future was bleak.

"I have already been hospitalised twice this year after my lungs started bleeding," he said.

"I am on a heap of medication but there is not much they can do.

"I am in constant pain . . . sometimes I just want it to all end."

Mr Verrall said he had known for a while he was suffering from the deadly disease.

He said he knew the disease was slowly killing him.

"It was the coal dust you could not see that was doing all the damage," he said.

"I feel weak all the time and it really restricts what I can do.

"I have been told if I bleed again then I will probably lose my right lung, then who knows what will happen after that."

Ipswich and Rosewood Coalminers Memorial chairman Beres Evans said this development would be alarming for many people who worked in the industry.

He said it was mind-boggling the disease had reared its ugly head again.

"It certainly concerns me immensely a few former miners have been diagnosed with this disease," he said.

"It is a horrible, horrible, horrible disease and my sympathies go out to them.

"We always considered it, it was always at the back of our minds, but we were under the impression it had been eradicated."

Queensland Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham told State Parliament he was aware of the three cases.

He said his department was working with the Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health to review existing medical assessment methodologies.

"I want to ensure lung diseases such as pneumoconiosis are diagnosed early," he said.

"More importantly, I want to prevent this from occurring at all.

"Mines inspectors continue to work with the mining industry to improve safety and health management systems and I am positive the industry will work with us if and when action is required."


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