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MSHA News Release No. 99-0826
Mine Safety and Health Administration - USDOL
Contact: Katharine Snyder
Phone: 703-235-1452

Released Thursday, August 26, 1999

Another Step in Long-Term Campaign
MSHA Publishes Data, Techniques for Preventing Black Lung

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration is moving ahead in its campaign against black lung, the disease that affects coal miners exposed to excessive levels of respirable coal mine dust. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, announced the steps today during a visit to Consolidation Coal Co.'s McElroy Mine near Moundsville, W. Va.

McAteer announced three actions by MSHA:

"There's a saying that knowledge is power. With these steps we hope to put knowledge in the hands of the whole mining community -- and with it, the power to help end black lung," McAteer said.

MSHA's new publication, "Practical Ways to Reduce Exposure to Coal Dust in Longwall Mining -- A Toolbox," presents more than 20 techniques that can help mine operators reduce respirable dust on longwall mining sections. In longwall operations, a shearer slices coal from a face that can be up to 1,200 feet wide. Many longwall operations have faced challenges in meeting Federal coal mine dust controls standards. 

"Research has led to development of dust control techniques that work on longwall operations. But we need to get the information out there," McAteer said.

McAteer also announced that MSHA has placed selected coal mine dust sampling data on its home page on the World Wide Web. This information allows members of the mining community to compare their own dust sampling results with the experience of others. 

MSHA has begun posting data from required coal mine dust samples taken by mine operators and processed by MSHA earlier this year. These data can be viewed on MSHA's Web site at under "Safety and Health Information."

McAteer said that in the fall MSHA plans to announce a program designed to provide fully confidential, free X-rays to underground coal miners. One goal for this program will be to obtain a more reliable estimate of the number of black lung cases in today's miners, McAteer said. 

"We will not disclose the names or individual test results from this program, but we plan to report the overall statistics," McAteer said. "We're hoping for at least 85 percent participation by eligible miners." MSHA plans to offer the confidential X-rays to miners at about one-fifth of the nation's coal mines in the coming year.

The actions announced today form part of a long-term campaign by MSHA to end black lung according to recommendations made in 1996 by the Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Pneumoconiosis Among Coal Mine Workers.