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New MSHA Coal Dust Rule: A Major Step to End Black Lung

July 30, 2014

Black lung kills. Since 1968, more than 76,000 coal miners have died from this deadly lung disease caused by exposure to coal dust. Thousands more have been disabled, unable to breathe as the dust destroys their lungs. This deadly disease has taken a devastating toll on coal miners and their families.

Earlier regulations under the 1969 Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act helped reduce dust levels and black lung disease, but in recent years it’s become clear these standards are insufficient. Coal miners are continuing to get sick, many of them younger miners.

On April 23, 2014, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) took a major step to end black lung, issuing a new final standard to protect workers from deadly coal dust. The new standard, which goes into effect on Aug. 1, 2014, will reduce permissible exposures to coal dust. It also will require real-time dust monitoring and sampling miners’ exposure over the entire work shift. This will give coal miners direct access to exposure information and empower them to take action to protect health and safety. These new rules will save miners’ lives.

The AFL-CIO applauds the Department of Labor for taking this important action and thanks Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and MSHA Assistant Secretary Joe Main for their leadership and fierce dedication to protecting workers. The AFL-CIO commits to work with MSHA, the UMWA and other unions to see that the new coal dust rules are fully and effectively implemented and enforced.

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