Respirable coal mine dust at surface mines, United States, 1982–2017
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Respirable coal mine dust at surface mines, United States, 1982–2017

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  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      Am J Ind Med
    • Description:

      Exposure to respirable coal mine dust can cause pneumoconiosis, an irreversible lung disease that can be debilitating. The mass concentration and quartz mass percent of respirable coal mine dust samples (annually, by occupation, by geographic region) from surface coal mines and surface facilities at U.S. underground mines during 1982–2017 were summarized.


      Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) collected and analyzed data for respirable dust and a subset of the samples were analyzed for quartz content. We calculated the respirable dust and quartz concentration geometric mean, arithmetic mean, and percent of samples exceeding the respirable dust permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 2.0 mg/m3, and the average percent of quartz content in samples.


      The geometric mean for 288 705 respirable dust samples was 0.17 mg/m3 with 1.6% of the samples exceeding the 2.0 mg/m3 PEL. Occupation-specific geometric means for respirable dust in active mining areas were highest among drillers. The geometric mean for respirable dust was higher in central Appalachia compared to the rest of the U.S. The geometric mean for respirable quartz including 54 040 samples was 0.02 mg/m3 with 15.3% of these samples exceeding the applicable standard (PEL or reduced PEL). Occupation-specific geometric means for respirable quartz were highest among drillers.


      Higher concentrations of respirable dust or quartz in specific coal mining occupations, notably drilling occupations, and in certain U.S. regions, underscores the need for continued surveillance to identify workers at higher risk for pneumoconiosis.

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