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||The Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study: II. Exposure monitoring surveys and development of exposure groups.
||Coble JB, Stewart PA, Vermeulen R, Yereb D, Stanevich R, Blair A, Silverman DT, Attfield M
||Ann Occup Hyg
||Air monitoring surveys were conducted between 1998 and 2001 at seven non-metal mining facilities to assess exposure to respirable elemental carbon (REC), a component of diesel exhaust (DE), for an epidemiologic study of miners exposed to DE. Personal exposure measurements were taken on workers in a cross-section of jobs located underground and on the surface. Air samples taken to measure REC were also analyzed for respirable organic carbon (ROC). Concurrent measurements to assess exposure to nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO₂), two gaseous components of DE, were also taken. The REC measurements were used to develop quantitative estimates of average exposure levels by facility, department, and job title for the epidemiologic analysis. Each underground job was assigned to one of three sets of exposure groups from specific to general: (i) standardized job titles, (ii) groups of standardized job titles combined based on the percentage of time in the major underground areas, and (iii) larger groups based on similar area carbon monoxide (CO) air concentrations. Surface jobs were categorized based on their use of diesel equipment and proximity to DE. A total of 779 full-shift personal measurements were taken underground. The average REC exposure levels for underground jobs with five or more measurements ranged from 31 to 58 μg m⁻³ at the facility with the lowest average exposure levels and from 313 to 488 μg m⁻³ at the facility with the highest average exposure levels. The average REC exposure levels for surface workers ranged from 2 to 6 μg m⁻³ across the seven facilities. There was much less contrast in the ROC compared with REC exposure levels measured between surface and underground workers within each facility, as well as across the facilities. The average ROC levels underground ranged from 64 to 195 μg m⁻³, while on the surface, the average ROC levels ranged from 38 to 71 μg m⁻³ by facility, an ∼2- to 3-fold difference. The average NO and NO₂ levels underground ranged from 0.20 to 1.49 parts per million (ppm) and from 0.10 to 0.60 ppm, respectively, and were ∼10 times higher than levels on the surface, which ranged from 0.02 to 0.11 ppm and from 0.01 to 0.06 ppm, respectively. The ROC, NO, and NO₂ concentrations underground were correlated with the REC levels (r = 0.62, 0.71, and 0.62, respectively). A total of 80% of the underground jobs were assigned an exposure estimate based on measurements taken for the specific job title or for other jobs with a similar percentage of time spent in the major underground work areas. The average REC exposure levels by facility were from 15 to 64 times higher underground than on the surface. The large contrast in exposure levels measured underground versus on the surface, along with the differences between the mining facilities and between underground jobs within the facilities resulted in a wide distribution in the exposure estimates for evaluation of exposure-response relationships in the epidemiologic analyses.