MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sen. Jay Rockefeller — joined by coal miners and leaders of the U.S. Department of Labor and the Mine Safety and Health Administration — declared war on black lung disease Wednesday, April 23.
They gathered at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) facility in Morgantown to announce the release of a new MSHA rule to lower miners’ exposure to breathable coal mine dust.
“It is preventable,” Rockefeller told the crowd of miners, their families and NIOSH workers.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Joe Main said 76,000 miners have fallen to the deadly disease since 1968. More than $45 billion has been spent on compensation benefits to 200,000 miners with black lung.
MSHA explained that the new rule will lower the concentration of harmful respirable coal mine dust that causes coal workers’ pneumoconiosis — black lung. It includes increased sampling by mine operators, use of new technology for real-time sampling results, immediate corrective action when excessive dust levels are found, determination of noncompliance based on a single MSHA sample, and reduced dust standards. The rule takes effect Aug. 1, with some components phased in over the following two years..