The U.S. Department of Labor today issued a final rule on respirable silica dust.

The rule, which will limit worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica, has been a long time in the making, with proponents working for decades to increase protections for workers.

The new rule updates regulations established in 1971 and goes a long way in protecting workers from the hazards of silica exposure – lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease.

“Today, millions of workers can breathe easier. This victory will help stop preventable illnesses and deaths. Preventable: that is the key word,” AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler said during an event Thursday at the International Masonry Institute in Bowie, Md.

The new rule establishes two standards – one for general industry and maritime and one for the construction industry – and limits exposure to an 8-hour time-weighted average of 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air.

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