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Mining Unions Call for Lower Silica-Exposure Standard

June 27, 2019

By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel

PITTSBURGH, Pa.—Saying there is “a disturbing trend in black lung cases,” United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts and United Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard called on the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to adopt stronger standards to protect miners from silica dust. Lowering the level considered unsafe from 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 50 micrograms would be “the single most effective step that MSHA can take,” whey wrote in a June 19 letter to agency head David Zatezalo. Silica, the two unions said in a statement, “is many times more dangerous to miners’ lungs than coal dust,” as it causes silicosis and cancer and “is believed responsible for a large rise in cases of black lung disease among coal miners in central Appalachia.” The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration adopted the 50-microgram standard in 2016, but MSHA has not. “Black lung afflicts thousands of coal miners,” Roberts said in the statement. “We know what causes it, we know how to prevent it, yet miners are still getting it. MSHA took action in 2016 to reduce respirable coal dust. Now it must act to reduce silica exposure, and quickly.” Read more

June 27, 2019

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