As you may know, since MSHA’s final rules in 2001 for underground coal mines and in 2006 for metal and nonmetal mines, studies from NIOSH have proven that exposure to diesel exhaust increases miners chances of contracting lung cancer. Studies have also shown that underground miners can be exposed up to 100 times more the typical environmental concentration of Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) and more than 10 times what might be found in other occupations. With an ever-increasing amount of diesel equipment being used in underground mines, the agency must act quickly to address this issue to protect miners from such negative health effects.
MSHA’s rules should parallel the Pennsylvania and West Virginia mining laws pertaining to underground diesel equipment and emissions. These state agencies have created laws that are much more stringent than the current federal laws and are considered the gold standard when it comes to diesel rules in underground mines. MSHA needs to take a hard look at what they have done and model their own rules and regulations after them.
The current federal law is nowhere near stringent enough to adequately protect miners from the negative health effects of diesel particulate matter in underground mines. The miners we are charged to protect deserve to have better protections in place for their health and safety. Not just protections from pneumoconiosis caused by coal dust, but also from lung cancer caused by diesel particulates.