Exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) can cause serious and irreparable negative health effects, including silicosis and lung cancer. Workers in coal mines have the potential of being exposed to RCS found in dust generated by various mining processes. The silica content of respirable dust in one single mine can vary substantially over both time and location. The current monitoring approach for RCS relies on the use of traditional air sampling followed by laboratory analysis. Results generated using this approach are generally not available for several days to several weeks after sampling, and this delay prevents timely and effective intervention if needed. An alternate analytical method is needed to reduce the time required to quantify the RCS exposure of mine workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed a new method using commercially available portable infrared spectrometers for measuring RCS at the end of the sampling shift. This paper will describe the application of the new field-based RCS analytical process for coal mines, including the use of the new method with the existing Coal Mine Dust Personal Sampler Unit. In a case study conducted by NIOSH with a coal mine operator in West Virginia, field-based RCS analysis was completed at a mine site to evaluate the new technique. The RCS analysis results obtained by the field-based method in this case study showed sufficiently strong correlation with results obtained by the MSHA standard laboratory analysis method to allow the mine operator to use the field-based method for evaluating process improvements.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Laney AS, Weissman DN (2014) Respiratory diseases caused by coal mine dust. J Occup Environ Med 56(10S):S18–S22. https://doi.org/10.1097/JOM.0000000000000260
Leung CC, Yu ITS, Chen W (2012) Silicosis. Lancet 379(9830):2008–2018. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60235-9
Kachuri L, Villeneuve PJ, Parent M-É, Johnson KC, Harris SA (2013) Occupational exposure to crystalline silica and the risk of lung cancer in Canadian men. Int J Cancer 135(1):138–148. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.28629
Laney AS, Petsonk EL, Attfield MD (2010) Pneumoconiosis among underground bituminous coal miners in the United States: is silicosis becoming more frequent? Occup Environ Med 67(10):652–656. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.2009.047126
Cohen RA, Petsonk EL, Rose C, Young B, Regier M, Najmuddin A, Abraham JL, Churg A, Green FHY (2015) Lung pathology in U.S. coal workers with rapidly progressive pneumoconiosis implicates silica and silicates. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 193(6):673–680. https://doi.org/10.1164/rccm.201505-1014OC
Antao VCS, Petsonk E, Sokolow L, Wolfe A, Pinheiro G, Hale J, Attfield M (2005) Rapidly progressive coal workers' pneumoconiosis in the United States: geographic clustering and other factors. Occup Environ Med 62(10):670–674. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.2004.019679
Blackley DJ, Crum JB, Halldin CN, Storey E, Laney AS (2016) Resurgence of progressive massive fibrosis in coal miners — Eastern Kentucky, 2016. Morb Mortal Wkly Rpt 65:1385–1389. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6549a1
Mazurek JM, Wood J, Blackley DJ, Weissman DN (2018) Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis–attributable years of potential life lost to life expectancy and potential life lost before age 65 years — United States, 1999–2016. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 67(30):819–824. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6730a3
Blackley DJ, Halldin CN, Laney AS (2018) Continued increase in prevalence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis in the United States, 1970–2017. Am J Public Health 108(9):1220–1222. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304517
Bang KM, Mazurek JM, Wood JM, White GE, Hendricks SA, Weston A (2015) Silicosis mortality trends and new exposures to respirable crystalline silica — United States, 2001–2010. Morb Mortal Wkly Rpt 64(5):117–120
Thomas CR, Kelley TR (2010) A brief review of silicosis in the United States. Environ Health Insights 4:21–26
Schatzel SJ (2009) Identifying sources of respirable quartz and silica dust in underground coal mines in Southern West Virginia, Western Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky. Int J Coal Geol 78(2):110–118. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coal.2009.01.003
Johann-Essex V, Keles C, Rezaee M, Scaggs-Witte M, Sarver E (2017) Respirable coal mine dust characteristics in samples collected in central and northern Appalachia. Int J Coal Geol 182:85–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coal.2017.09.010
Phillips K, Keles C, Scaggs-Witte M, Sarver E (2018) Coal and mineral mass fractions in personal respirable dust samples collected by central Appalachian miners. Min Eng 70(6):16–30
Colinet J, Shirey G, Kost J (1985) Control of respirable quartz on continuous mining sections. USBM contract J0338033, NTIS Publication No. PB86–179546,
Joy GJ (2012) Evaluation of the approach to respirable quartz exposure control in U.S. coal mines. J Occup Environ Hyg 9(2):65–68. https://doi.org/10.1080/15459624.2011.639232
Colinet J, Listak JM, Organiscak JA, Rider JP, Wolfe AL (2010) Best practices for dust control in coal mining. Information circular (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) ; 9517 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Office of Mine Safety and Health Research.
MSHA Administration (2008) “Infrared Determination of Quartz in Respirable Coal Mine Dust – Method No. MSHA P7” US Dept of Labor-MSHA Pittsburgh, PA, Safety and Health Technology Center, 2008
Lowering miners' exposure to respirable coal mine dust, including continuous personal dust monitors (2014). Federal Register Volume 79, Number 84
Volkwein JC, Vinson RP, Page SJ, McWilliams LJ, Joy GJ, Mischler SE, Tuchman DP (2006) Laboratory and field performance of a continuously measuring personal respirable dust monitor
Miller AL, Drake PL, Murphy NC, Noll JD, Volkwein JC (2012) Evaluating portable infrared spectrometers for measuring the silica content of coal dust. J Environ Monit 14(1):48–55. https://doi.org/10.1039/c1em10678c
Miller AL, Drake PL, Murphy NC, Cauda EG, LeBouf RF, Markevicius G (2013) Deposition uniformity of coal dust on filters and its effect on the accuracy of FTIR analyses for silica. Aerosol Sci Technol 47(7):724–733. https://doi.org/10.1080/02786826.2013.787157
Cauda E, Chubb L, Miller A (2016) Silica adds to respirable dust concerns: what if you could know the silica dust levels in a coal mine after every shift? Coal Age, vol 121
Cauda E, Miller A, Drake P (2016) Promoting early exposure monitoring for respirable crystalline silica: taking the laboratory to the mine site. J Occup Environ Hyg 13(3):D39–D45. https://doi.org/10.1080/15459624.2015.1116691
NIOSH (2003) QUARTZ in coal mine dust, by IR (redeposition) - method no. NIOSH 76030. NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods, 4th Edition
Cauda E, Chubb L, Britton J, Fritz J, Cole G (2018) FAST - field analysis of silica tool. NIOSH, Pittsburgh, PA
Cauda E, Joy G, Miller A, Mischler S (2013) Analysis of the silica percent in airborne respirable mine dust samples from U.S. operations. In: Harper M, Lee T (eds) Silica and Associated Respirable Mineral Particles. ASTM International, Atlanta, GA, pp 12–27. https://doi.org/10.1520/STP156520120210
Many thanks to William “Joe” Archer and Elizabeth L. Ashley for their work in support of this project. Thanks to Elaine Rubinstein, Don Tuchman, and Jenise M. Brown for their helpful comments on the manuscript. A special thanks also to the safety team at Blackhawk Mining, LLC, in Charleston, WV, for their enthusiastic contributions to the project: Joey Athey, Michael Balser, Joshua Bell, Ricky Estepp, Derrick McMillion, Andrew Ramey, Mark Rhodes, and Chad Terry.
Conflict of Interest
On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.
The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mention of any company or product does not constitute endorsement by NIOSH, CDC.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Pampena, J.D., Cauda, E.G., Chubb, L.G. et al. Use of the Field-Based Silica Monitoring Technique in a Coal Mine: A Case Study. Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration 37, 717–726 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42461-019-00161-0
- Crystalline silica
- Respirable dust
- Coal mining
- Field-based monitoring