Quartz concentration trends in metal and nonmetal mining

J Occup Environ Hyg. 2012;9(12):720-32. doi: 10.1080/15459624.2012.733566.


From 1974 through 2010, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) collected nearly 147,000 respirable dust samples with a mass of at least 0.1 mg and a minimum of 1% quartz. These samples represent about 50% of all respirable dust compliance samples collected by MSHA. Analysis of these data shows that pockets of high concentrations and overexposure continue to exist. At underground mines, from 2005 to 2010, occupations with >20% of the samples exceeding the permissible exposure limit (PEL) and geometric mean quartz concentrations exceeding the ACGIH threshold limit value of 25 μg/m(3) included mucking, crusher operator, general laborer/utility, and front-end loader operator. During the same period, stone and rock saw operators and bagger and packers working at surface mines and mills also had >20% of the samples exceeding the PEL and geometric mean quartz concentrations >25 μg/m(3). Regardless of mine type or location, slow but steady improvement in exposure levels is seen in jobs involving crushing operations, which are widespread in the mining industry. Crusher operators are more likely to work in an enclosed area where it is easier to apply dust controls and air conditioning. A downward trend is also observed for vehicle equipment operators who drive load-haul-dumps, front-end loaders, trucks, and similar equipment. Crusher operators and vehicle equipment operators represent occupational categories that are widely sampled by MSHA inspectors. A small but statistically significant reduction in the overall mean respirable quartz dust and quartz concentrations from 1993 to 2010 was observed in most commodity groups. Variability from year to year and between commodities is high. Reduction in respirable quartz dust concentration does not necessarily correspond to a reduction in quartz concentration within the same commodity group. These trends are consistent with those reported in previous studies.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Dust / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Metals
  • Mining / trends*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Quartz / analysis*
  • Threshold Limit Values


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Dust
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals
  • Quartz