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CT Sen. Blumenthal Urges OMB to Move Forward With Silica Dust Regulation

CT Sen Blumenthal OMB Silica Dust

New regulations surrounding dangerous silica dust have been swirling in a bureaucratic black hole for years. Now, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal is asking the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to move forward in the name of workers and families.

The AFL-CIO and its affiliate unions have long urged President Obama to move forward with new silica dust standards to no avail.  The reminder, in the form of a strongly worded letter from Sen. Blumenthal, is meant to put an end to the foot-dragging inaction that is costing people their lives. From the Senator’s letter:

“I’m writing OMB to remind the agency that there are human costs to delay,” Blumenthal said. “Parents should not have to worry about whether the juice they give their child has arsenic in it, and workers should not have to risk contracting lung disease while on the job. Rules and guidelines that could prevent both of these problems have been moved from the back burner to the deep freeze at OMB. Another regulation that would decrease deaths due to back-over accidents has been stuck at OMB for years.”

The regulations, proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), have been idle at the OMB for well over two years.  Along with another proposed regulation from the Department of Transportation (DOT) which would expand visibility in cars in order to keep children safer, Blumenthal demands that the OMB act now:

“As you know the Executive Order that requires federal agencies to submit proposed and final rules to OMB for review, also sets out a 90-day timeframe for OIRA to complete its work. Currently, 84 of the 153 regulatory actions pending review at OIRA have been there longer than 90 days,” Blumenthal wrote in a letter to OMB Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. “I urge you to complete your review of these proposed agency actions immediately and return those actions to the promulgating agencies. Otherwise, I would like you to please explain in writing the reasons for delay, and propose an alternate timeline for completion of OIRA’s review process.”

An OSHA fact sheet warns of the following dangers of Silica Dust inhalation:

Silica exposure remains a serious threat to nearly 2 million U.S. workers, including more than 100,000 workers in high risk jobs such as abrasive blasting, foundry work, stonecutting, rock drilling, quarry work and tunneling. The seriousness of the health hazards associated with silica exposure is demonstrated by the fatalities and disabling illnesses that continue to occur in sandblasters and rockdrillers. Crystalline silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. Additionally, breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, which in severe cases can be disabling, or even fatal. The respirable silica dust enters the lungs and causes the formation of scar tissue, thus reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. There is no cure for silicosis. Since silicosis affects lung function, it makes one more susceptible to lung infections like tuberculosis. In addition, smoking causes lung damage and adds to the damage caused by breathing silica dust.

Sadly, NPR reported last year that self-interested industry leaders were meeting behind closed doors with officials to tie up regulations.


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