The Labor Department plans to announce on Thursday new rules that sharply reduce workplace exposure to silica, a potentially deadly mineral found in materials commonly used in construction and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Safety experts have urged a tightening of silica exposure standards since the 1970s because research shows that particles of the mineral, when inhaled, can cause silicosis, a disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. However, progress was stymied for decades by resistance from affected companies and regulatory inaction.

The new rules are the second major action taken by the Obama administration in recent months to address a long-known workplace hazard. In August, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed lowering exposure to beryllium, an industrial metal, to one-tenth their current levels. Read more

Courtesy: The New York Times