Saturday, December 12, 2009

Report: New rule on coal dust in underground mines will include lower limit for exposure

The Courier-Journal of Louisville reports this morning that the Labor Department's efforts to eradicate coal miners' black-lung disease will include a lower limit on the amount of coal dust in an underground mine, contrary to earlier suggestions.

A story that combined material from an unnamed staff reporter and The Associated Press reported on a visit to the state capital of Frankfort by Joe Main, head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, ended this way:

"MSHA announced earlier this week that it planned to shorten the timeline for adopting the new rule to better protect miners from coal dust. The original plan was to have a rule ready by April 2011, a timeline that drew criticism from mine safety advocates. The new date for the proposed rule is September 2010. Lowering the exposure limits would be part of the proposed rule, said Main, a former miner and ex-safety and health official" for the United Mine Workers. "The current limit is 2 milligrams per cubic meter of air. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has recommended that the limit be reduced to 1 milligram."

On Monday, MSHA's update on the issue removed references to lowering the limit, and under repeated questioning from Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazatte, Main declined to say whether the rule would include a lower limit. We'd still like to see a direct quote from him on the issue.

UPDATE, Dec. 14: Teresa Mullins of, after covering Main's visit to Lebanon, Va., wrote a story that outlined the plan and ended with this paragraph: "Also being considered is a recommendation by NIOSH to lower the legally permissible level of exposure to coal dust, which is currently two milligrams per cubic meter of air." (Read more; subscription-only site)

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