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Editorial hats off: Labor Secretary Thomas Perez

Passage of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 led to a huge reduction in the number of miners suffering black lung, or as it is official known, coalworkers’ pneumoconiosis.

No one should die mining coal. Thanks to this and other safety regulations, coal mining dropped out of the top 10 most dangerous jobs as compiled by the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Logging is No. 1.

But in recent years, black lung rates have crept up. This is frustrating, expensive and most of all, heart-rending.

This week, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez announced that the allowable coal dust concentrations will be reduced 25 percent to only 1.5 milligrams of dust per cubic meter of air. Coal companies will be given two years to comply.

“We’re here today to advance a very basic principle: You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your life for your livelihood. No one should have to die for a paycheck. And yet, that’s been exactly the fate of more than 76,000 miners who have died at least in part because of black lung since 1968,” Perez said at a ceremony announcing the change.

Hats off to Thomas Perez and anyone in labor and industry who works to improve on-the-job safety so that employees anywhere in any occupation have a better chance of coming home safely from the job and staying healthy.

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