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Coal community discusses new regulations

Local - 5/8/2014 5:05 PM by Karen Franklin
BEAVER - New regulations will be established in mines around the state in an effort to decrease the number of black lung patients.

At the National Mine Safety and Health Academy Thursday, members of the mining community discussed changes to the dust-sampling process, which will include more frequent sampling and faster results.

Joe Main, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Division of Mine Safety and Health, said the coal dust standard will be reduced to allow only 1.5 milligrams of dust per cubic meter per shift by Aug. 2016.

Reports show as many as 76,000 deaths since 1968 were caused or contributed by black lung. By plugging loopholes, Main hopes to end the disease.

He spoke with Newswatch about a coal miner he knew personally.

"Was stricken with the black lung disease at an early age, had to leave the mines, become totally disabled, couldn't take but a few steps and had to just draw every breath he could get from an oxygen bottle that was attached to him," Main said. "Lucky enough to get a double lung transplant to replace his diseased lungs and died a few months later from complications, and there's a lot of those stories throughout the coalfields."

Main said 17 of the Upper Big Branch miners who lost their lives in the 2010 explosion were diagnosed with black lung. He added that the U.S. spends close to $45 billion a year in compensation costs for hundreds of thousands of miners. 

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