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Final phase of MSHA rule on coal dust underway

August 3, 2016

Arlington, VA – The overall permissible level of respirable dust in coal mines has been lowered to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air from 2.0 as part of the third – and final – phase of the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s rule on limiting miner exposure to coal mine dust.

The final rule also reduces the standard for miners who have black lung, as well as for air used to ventilate work areas, to 0.5 milligrams per cubic meter from 1.0. Both measures went into effect on Aug. 1.

“Lowering the concentration of respirable coal mine dust in the air that miners breathe is the most effective means of preventing diseases caused by excessive exposure to such dust,” the rule states.

MSHA claims that about 99 percent of the more than 122,000 collected samples of respirable coal dust have been in compliance since the rule went into effect on Aug. 1, 2014. Last month, the agency announced that 99 percent of samples collected from April 1 to June 30 of this year (during Phase II) complied with the final rule’s standards.

“Black lung has claimed tens of thousands of lives,” MSHA administrator Joseph A. Main said in a press release. “The positive sampling results are due to the extraordinary efforts of MSHA and industry working to clean up the air that miners breathe and successfully implement the respirable dust rule.”