Percy Verrall suffers from 'black lung' disease caused by his time spent coal mining.
Percy Verrall suffers from 'black lung' disease caused by his time spent coal mining. David Nielsen

Black lung must be investigated, and fast says victim

FORMER Ipswich coal miner Percy Verrall doesn't care how the government goes about investigating the disease that's slowly destroying his body.

He only cares about results.

The first man in Queensland to be diagnosed with black lung says he doesn't want to see young people go through what he's experiencing now.

If he could go back in time, a 16-year-old Percy would have never accepted a job working underground in a coal mine, knowing this would one day be his fate.

When the sun rose on Miners Memorial Day, it was meant to be the day Percy met with State Opposition leader Tim Nicholls to discuss the investigation into the resurgence of black lung disease given there's some disagreement on what type of inquiry should be held.

Instead, Percy was rushed to Ipswich Hospital yesterday morning before the meeting, complaining of chest pain after he'd woken up at 3am in agony.

The former coal miner was struggling to breathe, his chest feeling too heavy to cope, but that's nothing new for the man who spent 30 years working on the coal fields.

"I constantly feel as though there is a weight on my chest," Percy said.

"It takes me 25 minutes to walk past 19 houses on our street and that's an improvement from last year."

FIX IT: Percy Verrall, 72 suffers from 'black lung' disease caused by his time spent coal mining. His message to the government is to 'get on with it' and ensure young workers don't suffer the way he has in their later years. Pictured with his wife Daphne.
FIX IT: Percy Verrall, 72 suffers from 'black lung' disease caused by his time spent coal mining. His message to the government is to 'get on with it' and ensure young workers don't suffer the way he has in their later years. Pictured with his wife Daphne. David Nielsen

Percy was diagnosed with black lung disease in 2000.

The disease has become noticeably worse in the past few years - the worst incidents saw large volumes of blood involuntarily pouring out of his mouth from his lungs.

In 2013 Percy was taken to hospital nine times. At the end of last year his family thought he was going to die.

The LNP's Tim Nicholls had yesterday planned to discuss the government's commitment to investigate the re-emergence of black lung disease, thought to have been eradicated 30 years ago.

Unlike the government, Mr Nicholls doesn't believe a parliamentary committee is adequate and his party is campaigning for the Queensland equivalent of the Royal Commission.

"We've moved to have a Commission of Inquiry because we think that's the only way you can really get to the bottom of what has gone on," Mr Nicholls said.

"We've had a senate inquiry, we've got a parliamentary inquiry as a result of it, but I think it's disappointing we didn't have a full commission of inquiry.

"We wanted to let Percy know that's we think should be done. We need to find out what went wrong and a royal commission is the best way to do that."

Last week the Queensland Labor Government announced the appointment of a six-person committee to find out how black lung re-emerged and how to prevent it.

The committee has the power to call for people, documents, and other items, and will be chaired by Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller.



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