Reconstructing historical exposures to elongate mineral particles (EMPs) in the taconite mining industry for 1955–2010

Yuan Shao, Jooyeon Hwang, Bruce H. Alexander, Jeffrey H. Mandel, Richard F. MacLehose, Gurumurthy Ramachandran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


As part of ongoing epidemiological studies for assessing the association between exposure to dust from taconite operations and the development of respiratory diseases, the goal of this study was to reconstruct the exposures of workers to elongate mineral particle (EMP) in the Minnesota taconite mining industry from 1955–2010. Historical NIOSH-7400 and equivalent EMP personal exposure data were extracted from two sources: (1) the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) online database recorded for all inspection results since 1978 with 655 EMP monitoring records from 1978–2010 for 13 MSHA Mine IDs associated with this study; and (2) the mining companies’ internal monitoring reports contained 96 personal EMP exposure records. NIOSH-7400 EMP personal exposures were measured for workers in different jobs in all active mines in 2010 by obtaining 1,285 personal samples. After data treatment, all data were grouped into seven mines and eight departments. Within each mine-department, the yearly EMP mean concentration in f/cc for each year of operation was predicted using two approaches. The performance of two approaches varied by situation. The assumptions underlying each approach described in this article have limitations. A linear regression based on limited historical measurements and those made in 2010–2011 (Approach 1) does not yield reasonable and plausible values of the slope. Approach 2 assumes that the EMP and the respirable dust in the same department share the same historical time trend. This approach allowed us to avail of the more reasonable slope estimates from the historical respirable dust data set and yielded more plausible historical exposure estimates for most locations. This work with two different job exposure matrix (JEMs) provides a unique research opportunity to study the potential impact of exposure assessment to epidemiological results. Both JEMs are being used to assess associations between EMP and respiratory disease in epidemiological studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)817-826
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of occupational and environmental hygiene
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2 2019


  • Elongate Mineral Particles (EMP)
  • This peer-reviewed paper was presented at the 2018 International Occupational Hygiene Association meeting
  • job-exposure matrix (JEM)
  • respirable dust
  • respirable silica
  • retrospective exposure reconstruction
  • taconite mining

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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