Black lung’s next battle
It is with great pleasure that last week, after years of effort and decades of suffering for many coal miners, we saw that new rules tightening acceptable levels of coal dust in mines and better monitoring of those levels went into effect.
Those new rules — the first on improving air quality in mines in 40 years — will lower the legal limit on coal dust in mines per mine worker shift to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter, down from 2.
Also, all miners will be equipped with continuous personal dust monitors that will allow miners and coal operators to see in real-time how much dust exposure they are receiving.
The United Mine Workers of America called the new regulations “a good rule.”
“While there will still be much more to do in order to get this rule fully implemented, I believe that we will see improvement in mine atmospheres soon, which will be to the miners’ benefit,” said UMWA President Cecil E. Roberts.
“There will come a time when we will look back to this day as the point where we began to finally wipe out the deadly scourge of coal worker’s pneumoconiosis,” Roberts added.
And that is where the next battle must be fought — improving health care and funding for miners who have black lung already.
Last week a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that the backlog of miners filing for black lung benefits is now an average of 429 days, due to federal bureaucracy and the shortage of administrative law judges to hear these cases.
— The Register-Herald, Beckley