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Saturday, June 15, 2024

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The Supreme Court throws out a Trump-era ban on gun bump stocks; a look at how social media algorithms and Shakespearian villains have in common; and states receive federal funding to clean up legacy mine pollution.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

Advocates: New silica dust rule 'missed opportunities' to curb black lung

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Monday, April 29, 2024   

After the Biden administration released a new rule setting standards to limit exposure to silica dust, advocates in Kentucky and around Appalachia argued it is not enough to stem the region's black lung epidemic.

The new rule shrinks in half the allowed exposure limit for crystalline silica during an eight-hour shift.

Rebecca Shelton, director of policy for the Appalachian Citizens' Law Center, who represents miners in federal black lung disability claims, said while the rule is beneficial since silica dust exposure standards have not been updated in decades, miners are cutting through increasing amounts of rock to get to coal seams, breathing in more and more toxic dust.

"In the last decade or so, we have seen miners who are younger than ever before, and also sicker, coming through our doors because of this exposure to silica," Shelton observed. "Silica dust itself is more toxic than just coal dust alone."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said modern-day coal miners are at greater risk of developing respiratory disease than their predecessors, likely driven by increasing silica coal mine dust inhalation.

Shelton pointed out the new rule also requires quarterly sampling and stronger record-keeping requirements by coal operators, with little oversight for compliance and a heavy reliance on the coal industry's willingness to participate.

"Mine operators are going to be responsible for kind of self-auditing, and periodically evaluating the conditions in the mine to assess whether silica dust levels may be increasing, whether they may need to conduct more sampling," Shelton explained.

According to the group Appalachian Voices, one in five tenured miners in Central Appalachia has black lung disease and one in twenty lives with the most severe and disabling form of black lung.


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