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Thumbs down: Regulators delay rule intended to fight black lung

Jul. 09, 2013 @ 11:10 PM

Researchers have seen a resurgence in black lung disease among younger Appalachian coal miners in recent years, but new rules to protect workers have been slow in coming.

Pneumoconiosis, or black lung, is caused by exposure to coal dust. The current standard for mines is 2 milligrams of dust per cubic meter of air, but the disease continues to show up among miners working under those dust limits.

About 10,000 coal miners nationwide died of black lung between 1996 and 2005, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and more than 1,800 of those were in West Virginia.

In 2010, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration proposed new rules that would bring the dust level down to 1 milligram of dust per cubic meter of air.

But three years later, MSHA is still working on issuing the final rules. Action expected this summer has been delayed until September, according to a report by The Charleston Gazette. There is some opposition to a change in the national standard for coal dust, but MSHA is still working on changes in safety requirements for equipment.

It is time to resolve those issues and implement standards and enforcement that will protect coal miners from this deadly disease. Losing thousands more workers to this illness would be a tragedy for coal-mining states and for the industry.

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