organized by research area. An overview of program-wide overarching issues is provided in Chapter 7.
Future research may show that nanoparticles are common in the mining environment, or that they are more toxic than larger-sized respirable particles. The Mining Program should stay aware of current and future research in this field and be ready to address potential control technologies associated with nanoparticles in the mining environment, especially methods of both measuring and controlling exposure.
The recommendations of the Department of Labor advisory committee on the elimination of coal worker’s pneumoconiosis (U.S. Department of Labor, 1996) and a NIOSH criteria document (NIOSH, 1995) suggest lowering the standard for coal dust and silica. The Mining Program should be prepared, by working with its stakeholders to decide on a desirable approach, to address the technological challenges that may arise should the permissible exposure limit (PEL) be reduced.
The Mining Program should be prepared to address how changing work organization (e.g., overtime, extended shifts) may affect the respiratory health of mine workers.
There are no active underground uranium mines in the United States; therefore miners’ exposure to radon and its progeny is minimal. If the nuclear power industry expands, an increase in the demand for uranium and the reactivation of uranium mines can be expected, increasing the exposure of miners working within that sector to radon. Attention to control technologies and disease prevention will be required.
As production increases due to equipment or process evolution, noise levels will increase. Future coal mining will likely involve thinner coal seams that may include more reject (rock), which produces higher noise levels. Deep mines can become very warm, making hearing protection devices more uncomfortable to wear—particularly for longer work shifts. More comfortable hearing protection needs to be designed to accommodate higher noise levels, deeper and warmer mines, and/or longer shifts.
Substantial evidence indicates many miners have lost significant hearing (NIOSH, 1976; Seiler et al., 1994; Franks, 1996; Franks et al., 1996). The safety of the aging workforce needs to be protected to ensure they do not suffer further hearing loss, and that communication with them in the mine is not compromised.