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[April 30, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 82)]
[Unified Agenda]

Department of Labor (DOL)
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
Long-Term Actions



Priority: Other Significant

Legal Authority: 30 USC 811; 30 USC 813

CFR Citation: 30 CFR 56; 30 CFR 57; 30 CFR 71

Legal Deadline: None

Abstract: MSHA's permissible exposure limit (PEL) for asbestos applies to surface (30 CFR part 56) and underground (30 CFR part 57) metal and nonmetal mines and to surface coal mines and surface areas of underground coal mines (30 CFR part 71). The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recommended in a report that MSHA lower its PEL for asbestos to a more protective level, and address take-home contamination from asbestos. It also recommended that MSHA use Transmission Electron Microscopy to analyze fiber samples that may contain asbestos. MSHA proposed a rule to lower the asbestos PEL, which would reduce asbestos-induced occupational disease.

Statement of Need: Current scientific data indicate that the existing asbestos PEL is not sufficiently protective of miners' health. MSHA's asbestos regulations date to 1967 and are based on the Bureau of Mines (MSHA's predecessor) standard of 5 million particles per cubic foot of air (mppcf). Other Federal agencies have addressed this issue by lowering their asbestos PEL. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, working in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, enacted a revised asbestos standard in 1994 that lowered the permissible exposure limit to an 8-hour time-weighted average of 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter (f/cc) of air and the excursion limit to 1.0 f/cc of air as averaged over a 30 minute sampling period. These lower limits reflect new information and studies that compare asbestos-related disease risk to the number of asbestos- exposed workers.

Summary of Legal Basis: Promulgation of this regulation is authorized by section 101 of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.

Alternatives: The Agency increased sampling efforts in an attempt to determine miners' exposure levels to asbestos. In early 2000, MSHA began an extensive sampling effort at operations with potential asbestos exposure including taking samples at all existing vermiculite, taconite, talc, and other mines to determine the level of asbestos present. While sampling, MSHA staff also discussed various potential hazards of asbestos with miners and mine operators and the types of preventive measures that could be implemented to reduce exposures.

The final rule will be based, on comments and testimony to the proposed rule, as well as MSHA sampling and inspection experience.

Anticipated Cost and Benefits: The anticipated costs of the proposed rule to the mining industry would be approximately $136,000 annually. Of this total amount, the cost to the metal and nonmetal mining sector would be $91,500, and the cost to the coal mining sector would be $44,600.

MSHA estimates that between 1 and 19 deaths could be prevented over the next 65 years, which represents approximately 9 to 84 percent of all occupationally related deaths caused by asbestos exposure. Under the proposed exposure limit, approximately 1 out of every 1,000 miners will avoid the risk of death from asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, or other forms of cancer attributed to asbestos exposure.

Risks: Miners could be exposed to the hazards of asbestos at mine operations where ore body contains asbestos. In addition, miners could be exposed to asbestos at facilities that install material containing asbestos. Overexposure to asbestos causes asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other forms of cancer.


Action                            Date                      FR Cite


ANPRM                           03/29/02                    67 FR 15134
Notice of Change to Public 
Meetings                        04/18/02                    67 FR 19140
ANPRM Comment Period End        06/27/02
NPRM                            07/29/05                    70 FR 42950
NPRM Comment Period End         11/21/05                    70 FR 43950
Public Hearing                  10/18/05                    70 FR 43950
Final Action                    06/00/08

Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: No

Small Entities Affected: Businesses

Government Levels Affected: None

Additional Information: The Office of the Inspector General issued a report entitled, ``Evaluation of MSHA's Handling of Inspections at the W.R. Grace & Company Mine in Libby, Montana,'' in March 2001.

URL For More Information:

URL For Public Comments:

Agency Contact: Patricia W. Silvey, Director, Office of Standards,
Regulations, and Variances, Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health
Administration, 1100 Wilson Boulevard, Room 2350, Arlington, VA 22209-3939
Phone: 202 693-9440
Fax: 202 693-9441

RIN: 1219-AB24