Exposure of miners to diesel exhaust particulates in underground nonmetal mines

H. J. Cohen, J. Borak, T. Hall, G. Sirianni, S. Chemerynski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


A study was initiated to examine worker exposures in seven underground nonmetal mines and to examine the precision of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 5040 sampling and analytical method for diesel exhaust that has recently been adopted for compliance monitoring by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Approximately 1000 air samples using cyclones were taken on workers and in areas throughout the mines. Results indicated that worker exposures were consistently above the MSHA final limit of 160 μg/m3 (time-weighted average; TWA) for total carbon as determined by the NIOSH 5040 method and greater than the proposed American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists TLV® limit of 20 μg/m3 (TWA) for elemental carbon. A number of difficulties were documented when sampling for diesel exhaust using organic carbon: high and variable blank values from filters, a high variability (±20%) from duplicate punches from the same sampling filter, a consistent positive interference (+26%) when open-faced monitors were sampled side-by-side with cyclones, poor correlation (r2 = 0.38) to elemental carbon levels, and an interference from limestone that could not be adequately corrected by acid-washing of filters. The sampling and analytical precision (relative standard deviation) was approximately 11% for elemental carbon, 17% for organic carbon, and 11% for total carbon. An hypothesis is presented and supported with data that gaseous organic carbon constituents of diesel exhaust adsorb onto not only the submicron elemental carbon particles found in diesel exhaust, but also mining ore dusts. Such mining dusts are mostly nonrespirable and should not be considered equivalent to submicron diesel particulates in their potential for adverse pulmonary effects. It is recommended that size-selective sampling be employed, rather than open-faced monitoring, when using the NIOSH 5040 method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-658
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Industrial Hygiene Association Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Analytical methods
  • Diesel particulate matter
  • DPM
  • NIOSH 5040

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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