Dale Stephenson, director of the School of Allied Health Science, and Emily Zamzow, Environmental and Occupational Health graduate and research assistant, offered their expertise on diesel emissions in mines at the American Society of Safety Engineers November Snake River Chapter meeting.
The presentation, titled “Occupational Exposure to Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) in an Underground Metal Mine,” explained the reasons for the research project that was made possible by funding from the Center of Disease Control National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Exposure to DPM can cause acute irritation and inflammation as well as chronic health effects such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Underground miners are particularly at risk for exposures because they are in a confined environment with diesel-powered vehicles and machinery. The goal of the research was to evaluate the environmental and occupational exposure to DPM in a metal mine and to determine compliance with the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) standards.
Stephenson and Zamzow also explained the mining process and provided photos of the various sources for underground diesel emissions including: the diamond drill, bolter, double boom jumbo, mules, mucker/load haul dump, and Kiruna. The mine has several practices in place to reduce DPM, including using a diesel bio-blend fuel, ceramic filters on engines, preventative maintenance, forced air ventilation, providing enclosed cabs with filtered air, and requiring the use of respirators in open cab vehicles.
Twenty miners were monitored by taking measurements over a period of four days during a 12 hour shift each day on four separate trips to the mines. All samples taken measured lower than the permissible exposure limit set by MSHA indicating that the practices the mine uses to reduce DPM are effective.