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MSHA News Release No. 96-012
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (703) 235-1456

July 18, 1996


A nine-member advisory committee appointed by Secretary of Labor Robert Reich to make recommendations on how to eliminate black lung disease among coal miners will conduct its fifth and final national meeting in Lexington, Ky., on July 22-25, 1996.

The four-day meeting will be held at the Hyatt Regency-Lexington located at 400 West Vine St., on Monday through Thursday. The meeting on Monday will begin at 1 p.m. while the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday sessions will all begin at 8 a.m. The public is invited to attend.

"In attempting to find a solution to this debilitating disease, it's very important that the advisory committee hear from different sectors of the mining community in various geographical areas on all matters that relate to this illness," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

The agenda for the Lexington meeting includes, among other issues, discussions on permissible exposure limits for respirable coal mine dust; implementation of dust controls at surface coal mines; sampling to assure representative samples; the miner's role in respirable dust sampling; and compliance sampling by MSHA and by the mine operator.

Additionally, the committee will conclude deliberations at the meeting in Lexington by discussing, adopting and voting on specific recommendations to end black lung and silicosis. Those recommendations are to be presented to the Secretary of Labor.

The committee has set aside one hour in the afternoon on Tuesday and Wednesday for public comment.

Since the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 set limits for respirable dust in coal mines, average dust concentrations in underground coal mines have declined from 8.0 milligrams per cubic meter to the current standard of 2.0 milligrams per cubic meter.

However, recent medical evidence indicates that coal miners continue to develop black lung and silicosis. Black lung is a commonly used term for lung disease resulting from excessive exposure to respirable coal mine dust, while silicosis results from exposure to quartz dust (respirable crystalline silica). In serious cases, both black lung and silicosis can be disabling or fatal.

Currently, black lung disability benefits cost the federal government more than $1.3 billion annually, with 75,000 former miners receiving benefits.

The majority of the nine-member advisory committee consists of individuals who have no economic interest in mining and are neutral. Two members of the committee represent organized labor and two others represent the mining industry.

The neutral members of the advisory committee are:

Dr. David Wegman, (advisory committee chairman) chairman of the department of work environment, and a professor in the college of engineering at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. A physician and epidemiologist, Dr. Wegman also chaired a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) working group on lung disease surveillance in miners and edited one of the leading textbooks in the field of occupational health.

John Dement, Ph.D., C.I.H., an associate professor in the division of occupational and environmental medicine at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. Dement previously directed the office of disease prevention and exposure research for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. He has a joint doctoral degree in industrial hygiene/epidemiology and is editor of Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

Dr. Kathleen Kreiss, affiliated with the department of preventive medicine and biometrics at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, CO. She is also an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dr. Kreiss has published in the area of occupational lung disease and is a NIOSH-certified "B" reader of pneumoconiosis x-ray films.

Raja Ramani, Ph.D., P.E., professor of mining engineering and head of the department of mineral engineering at Pennsylvania State University. Ramani is also director of the Generic Mineral Technology Center for Respirable Dust and has published more than 150 research papers dealing with mine planning and design, mine health and safety, and productivity.

Carol Rice, Ph.D., an associate professor of environmental health at the Kettering Laboratory, University of Cincinnati. Rice is past chairperson of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and has published numerous research papers dealing with the measurement and control of workplace contaminants.

Mining industry representatives are:

Dr. John Gibbs, vice president of health management and corporate medical director of the Kerr-McGee Corp. in Oklahoma City, OK. He is an adjunct associate professor of occupational environmental medicine at the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Gibbs also serves on the occupational health committee of the National Mining Association.

Joseph Lamonica, vice-president for health, safety and training at the Bituminous Coal Operators' Association, Inc., in Washington, D.C. Lamonica previously served as director of health, safety and engineering for the Island Creek Coal Co. in Lexington, KY. Prior to that, he was administrator for coal mine safety and health at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor.

Labor representatives are:

Joseph Main, administrator of the department of occupational health and safety at the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) in Washington, D.C., for 13 years. Main, a former surface and underground miner, directs a staff of union safety officials who inspect mines and investigate accidents at UMWA mines.

James Weeks, Sc.D., C.I.H., associate research professor in the division of occupational and environmental medicine at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. A certified industrial hygienist, Dr. Weeks has published papers in the scientific literature on coal mine dust exposures and on the effectiveness of mine safety regulations.

The committee began its deliberations in a February meeting in Arlington, Va., and met again in April in Pittsburgh, Pa. The third meeting was held in Charleston, W.Va. in May and the fourth in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June. The committee is required to make its recommendations to the Secretary of Labor in September.