Federal efforts to reduce “Black Lung” disease among American coal miners is apparently having an effect. The US Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced Monday that approximately 99% of respirable coal dust samples gathered from April 1 to June 30 this year complied with the agency’s coal mine dust standards.
The agency published a rule in 2014 that changed its dust-sampling program to eliminate loopholes, required more frequent sampling and the use of new sampling equipment, and furthered other reforms.
“These positive results are due to the extraordinary efforts of MSHA and industry working to clean up the air that miners breathe and successfully implement the critical respirable dust rule to protect miners from a disease that has claimed tens of thousands of lives,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, in a statement. “The nation’s coal miners are better protected from debilitating and deadly black lung so that miners can spend a career as a miner and not fear the disease.”
Samples from over 20,000 underground coal mines that deployed Continuous Personal Dust Monitors, devices that provide information on dust conditions in real time, were examined for the agency’s recent Phase II dataset. 99% of the 87,000 dust samples collected from surface and underground coal mines in Phase I from Aug. 1, 2014 to Jan. 2016 were compliant with the new standards.
Phase III of the rule is set to begin Aug. 1 this year, lowering the current amount of respirable dust of 2.0 mg per cubic meter to 1.5 mg per cubic meter of air, the agency said.
Exposure to coal mine dust is a known cause of lung diseases like emphysema and progressive massive fibrosis known collectively as “black lung,” the MSHA noted, sometimes leading to permanent disabilities or death.