The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) published a request for information on approaches to control and monitor underground miners’ exposures to diesel exhaust.

“It’s time for the agency to look back and review its existing standards and determine whether they adequately protect miners’ health,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

Studies published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Cancer Institute found a strong link between diesel exhaust and lung cancer. In June 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified diesel exhaust as carcinogenic to humans.

In January 2001, MSHA published a final rule limiting diesel particulate matter (DPM) exposure in underground coal mines, and in May 2006, a final rule on DPM exposure in underground metal and nonmetal mines.

Many underground metal and nonmetal mines use a variety of feasible controls to reduce exposures to diesel exhaust. These controls include ventilation, diesel equipment maintenance, ultra-low sulfur fuel, diesel oxidation catalysts, new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved engines and administrative controls — such as limiting the number of engines in a ventilation course and limiting idling time of diesel-powered equipment.

In underground coal mines, MSHA requirements limit diesel particulate emissions.

MSHA’s data show that a majority of the permissible diesel-powered equipment used in these mines meet the federal agency’s requirements. The 90-day comment period closes on September 6.

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