WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Coal companies need to make a “fundamental shift” in how they control exposure to coal dust in underground mines to address the recent surge in black lung disease rates, according to a federal report released Thursday.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report found that even though coal operators largely comply with recently tightened rules requiring monitoring for coal dust, those measures may not be sufficient.
“There is an urgent need for monitoring and sampling strategies that enable continued, actual progress to be made toward the elimination of diseases associated with coal mine dust exposure,” said Thure Cerling, a biology professor at the University of Utah who helped write the report.
The report recommends that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) improve monitoring and conduct studies on the causes of the resurgence in the disease, which had been nearly eradicated in the 1990s.
Cases of the incurable illness, caused by inhaling coal dust, are rising to levels not seen in decades as miners plumb the depths of played-out coal seams using heavy blasting equipment, according to government health officials.