Respirable Coal Mine Dust Rule Enters Final Phase of Implementation

The overall respirable dust standard in coal mines is reduced from 2.0 to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air.

Two years after a rule to prevent black lung disease took effect, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has started implementing the third and final phase of the rule. Now, the overall respirable dust standard in coal mines is reduced from 2.0 to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air. The rule also reduces the standard for miners diagnosed with black lung and for air used to ventilate areas where miners work, from 1.0 to 0.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air.

A July 2016 report announced that 99 percent of dust samples collected from April 1, 2016, through June 30, 2016, complied with coal mine dust standards.

"Black lung has claimed tens of thousands of lives," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "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."

Since the final rule went into effect on Aug. 1, 2014, MSHA and mine operators have collected more than 122,000 respirable dust samples. And on Jan. 25, 2016, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to the dust rule brought by two groups representing the coal industry, with the appeals court finding MSHA had acted within its statutory authority in promulgating the dust rule.

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