What Are the Most Common Causes of Black Phlegm?

Very frequent cigarette smokers might be prone to cough up black phlegm.
Black lung disease is commonly experienced by coal miners.
Wearing a respirator while working in a coal mine may reduce chances of developing black lung disease.
It is not uncommon for coal mine workers to cough up black phlegm.
Inhaling smoke from a house fire can turn a person's lungs black.
Article Details
  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Phlegm is the mucus that is expelled from the body during a cough or sneeze. Phlegm can come in a few colors, and the color of a person's phlegm often indicates his state of health. Black phlegm can be harmless, but it can also indicate a serious health problem. Some of the more common causes of black phlegm include mucus being tainted by particles of food or dust. Other, more serious, causes of black phlegm include smoke inhalation and certain diseases or infections.

One of the most common causes of black phlegm, especially in children, is ingesting something black or dark. Certain foods, such as chocolate or licorice, can turn a person's phlegm dark or black. Tiny particles of these foods can stick to the mucus in the throat when a person eats, and can produce black phlegm when he coughs or clears his throat.

Dirt and dust particles can do the same thing. If a person inhales dust while cleaning on a dusty day, or working in a garden on a windy day, small particles can get stuck in the mucus and be expelled. Although the color of the black phlegm can be alarming, this usually does not indicate a serious medical problem.

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Another common cause of black phlegm is smoke inhalation. While cigarette smoke usually produces yellow or brown phlegm, very heavy smokers sometimes cough up black phlegm. People who smoke other drugs, such as crack cocaine or marijuana, are more likely to produce black phlegm than cigarette smokers.

Inhaling smoke from a large fire, like a house fire, can also cause a person's phlegm to turn black. This can indicate a serious medical problem. People who have recently been in or near a large fire with thick black smoke and begin to cough up black phlegm are advised to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Firefighters are especially susceptible to these types of respiratory problems.

It is also not uncommon for men and women who work in certain types of mines, especially coal mines and beryllium mines, to cough up black phlegm. This is often known as black lung disease, or coal worker's pneumoconiosis. After a prolonged exposure to the dust in coal mines, coal dust often builds up in a person's lungs, causing a chronic cough and shortness of breath. The risks of contracting this disease can be greatly diminished by wearing a respirator or other type of mask while working in a coal mine.

There are a also a couple rare fungal infections that can cause a person to cough up black phlegm. Aspergillosis and mucormycosis, which are caused by a fungus found in rotting plants, are two rare types of fungal infections of the lungs that humans can contract. Blood from these infections along with other infections of the lungs, including cancer and emphysema, can turn a person's phlegm dark, making it appear black.

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Discuss this Article

anon960310
Post 6

I have been coughing up this black phlegm. I've stopped the weed and this black phlegm is still here. Can you help me?

anon959762
Post 5

I am getting black mucus when I blow my nose. I am not a smoker.

anon949868
Post 4

I am getting black spots when I spit (when I have a cold), but not always. It usually gets back to normal once I am fine. Why is it so?

anon939954
Post 3

I've got the same thing. It's like a grainy black (ash like) substance in my phlegm (scary how dark it is!).

anon333133
Post 2

Whenever I do breathing exercises in the morning, then on the same afternoon, I have this black phlegm problem. Does it mean I'm breathing bad air? (I'm exercising inside my room itself).

anon321283
Post 1

I am ill and have been in bed three days. I am weak and my ribs hurt (although I am not coughing that much really as it hurts too much!)

I am a non-smoker but do have insulin dependent diabetes and quite a few other medical things wrong with me! I coughed up earlier a load of discoloured phlegm but for the first time noticed black threads in it. Then when I coughed again it wasn't much, but a definite pinkish tone to the sputum! I am also asthmatic but am only 55 and just need to know I'm OK? I have had two pneumonia jabs so I know it's not that. I also have the flu jab every year. Help me!

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