Outside the Mine: Why Miner Mesothelioma Risk is the Most Dangerous Hazard

Coal mining’s place on the list of most dangerous jobs in the world is well deserved. An average of 50 to 60 coal miners die on the job in the United States every year.

We sometimes see stories in the news about mine collapse tragedies, trapping miners for days with little to no food or water. Just over one month ago, in December 2016, nine people were killed and many more were trapped in an Indian coal mine collapse.

The hazards of cave-ins, explosions, carbon monoxide and methane gas are well-known and at the forefront of news headlines, but to this day there is another, silent killer lurking in the mines with workers: asbestos.

As much as 15 percent of United States mines are contaminated with asbestos. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Prior to 2008, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) asbestos exposure limit in mines was 2 fibers per cc – about 20 times the threshold density allowed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2008, MSHA changed its limit to be in line with OSHA’s asbestos exposure limit of 0.1 ff/cc in order to lower the risk of asbestos-related diseases in mine workers.

Because many miners were unaware of the presence of asbestos (and unaware of miner mesothelioma risk from asbestos exposure), many of them worked for years breathing in the deadly fibers. While they may now be retired, having seemingly escaped potential injury, the threat of cancer from these asbestos exposures will remain.

Coal Miner Asbestos Exposure Risk

Disturbing asbestos in any way can cause it to become airborne and inhaled. In mines, blasting, crushing, grinding or even touching materials containing asbestos could distribute the dust particles into the air. Unknowingly, the miner may inhale these fibers or bring them home on clothing, thereby contaminating areas where loved ones may also be exposed. This take-home contamination threatens both the miner and his family and broadens the scope of miner mesothelioma risk.

While asbestos products are largely unavailable for purchase, asbestos products accumulating in mines over the last several decades continue to be a threat. These asbestos-containing materials used by workers can increase coal miner asbestos exposure, as well. The MSHA states that even though many manufacturers have discontinued use of asbestos in equipment and products, asbestos may still be found at mines in materials such as electrical insulation, joint and packing compounds, automotive clutch and brake linings, welding blankets, pipe insulation and more.

For individuals who once worked in mines (or any loved ones exposed to take-home contamination), asbestos exposure that occurred 10 to 50 years ago could now be making itself known through mesothelioma symptoms or symptoms of other respiratory diseases that were latent for many years.

What to Do If You or a Loved One Worked in a Mine

Not all coal mines in the United States contain asbestos. However, it’s important to understand miner mesothelioma risk and whether or not you may have been exposed to asbestos. Several Simmons Hanly Conroy clients have been employed at mining operations throughout the country. These include mines in:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Minnesota
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

For nearly 20 years, Simmons Hanly Conroy lawyers have worked closely with coal miners who were exposed to asbestos while on the job. We have represented mesothelioma victims and their families who simply went to work every day, not realizing that invisible, odorless fibers in the air were increasing their risk for a deadly form of lung cancer.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have miner asbestos exposure risk, learn more about the coal miner occupation and its link to asbestos exposure and mesothelioma today.