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Best Practices for Dust Control in Coal Mining - Introduction
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  • Description:
    Respirable dust exposure has long been known to be a serious health threat to workers in many industries. In coal mining, overexposure to respirable coal mine dust can lead to coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP). CWP is a lung disease that can be disabling and fatal in its most severe form. In addition, miners can be exposed to high levels of respirable silica dust, which can cause silicosis, another disabling and/or fatal lung disease. Once contracted, there is no cure for CWP or silicosis. The goal, therefore, is to limit worker exposure to respirable dust to prevent development of these diseases. The passage of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 established respirable dust exposure limits, dust sampling requirements for inspectors and mine operators, a voluntary x-ray surveillance program to identify CWP in underground coal miners, and a benefits program to provide compensation to affected workers and their families. The tremen dous human and financial costs resulting from CWP and silicosis in the U.S. underground coal mine workforce are shown by the following statistics: During 1970-2004, CWP was a direct or contributing cause of 69,377 deaths of U.S. underground coal mine workers. During 1980-2005, over $39 billion in CWP benefits were paid to underground coal miners and their families. Recent x-ray surveillance data for 2000-2006 show an increase in CWP cases. Nearly 8% of examined underground coal miners with 25 or more years of experience were diagnosed with CWP. Continuous miner operator is the most frequently listed occupation on death certificates that record silicosis as the cause of death.

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