Curtis Tate Published

Coal Miners Testify For U.S. To Lower Silica Dust Exposure Limit

A gray bearded man wearing a hat and a black shirt waves at a crowd carrying signs in front of a granite building on a clear day.
Gary Hairston, president of the National Black Lung Association.
Willie Dodson/Appalachian Voices

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) held a hearing in Raleigh County on Thursday on silica dust exposure in coal mines.

Active and retired miners testified that a lower limit for silica dust exposure is needed to protect the health of coal miners.

Silica dust is driving a surge in new black lung cases, causing more severe forms of the disease and in younger miners.

Gary Hairston, a retired miner in Fayette County who’s president of the National Black Lung Association, said it leaves younger miners unable to support their families.

“It’s bad when you’re at 35 years old and you can’t work no more,” he said. “I was at 48 and I couldn’t work no more.”

MSHA proposes a limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter per shift, in line with Occupational Health and Safety Administration guidelines.

The public will have until Sept. 11 to comment on the proposal, an extension of 15 days.