‘Black lung’ standard was a promise, Solis says

February 17, 2011

Washington – The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s pursuit of a respirable coal dust standard stems from a promise made 40 years ago to end “black lung” disease, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said Feb. 16.

Under questioning from Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) as to why the standard was necessary, Solis said the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, later amended in 1977, set out to eradicate the respiratory disease, but that has not happened yet.

“I think black lung disease is one that has not been dealt with by this Congress for many years, and we believe that now is the time to act,” Solis said during testimony before the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Black lung kills and severely impairs current and former miners every year, and young miners have experienced an increase in the disease, Solis added.

In MSHA’s fiscal year 2012 budget request (.pdf file), issued Feb. 14, the agency seeks additional funding to improve dust sampling and prevent new cases of black lung. For the entire agency, MSHA is seeking $384 million in 2012, a nearly $20 million boost from FY 2010.