Mining Program Area: Diesel Assessment and Control
The Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR) diesel group’s strategic mission is to reduce respiratory diseases associated with diesel emissions by reducing mine workers’ exposure to these emissions in underground mines. The reduction in exposure can be addressed by both evaluating methods to successfully control emissions from diesel equipment and by creating novel monitoring techniques to give mine workers the information necessary to take appropriate action to reduce their exposure.
Diesel engines are a major contributor to concentrations of submicron aerosols, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and hydrocarbons in underground coal and metal/nonmetal mines. Exposure to elevated diesel exhaust concentrations has been linked to negative health effects, such as eye and nose irritation, headaches, nausea, and asthma, and diesel particulate matter (DPM) has been classified as a possible carcinogen by both the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Furthermore, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has reclassified diesel engine exhaust from a probable carcinogen to a substance that is carcinogenic to humans. Currently, underground mine workers can be exposed to over 100 times the typical environmental concentration of diesel exhaust and over 10 times that measured in other workplaces. As the use of diesel equipment becomes more popular within the mining community, the mine worker exposure to diesel emissions may become more widespread.
NIOSH OMSHR’s close working relationship with stakeholders, including industry and labor, allows OMSHR researchers unique opportunities to evaluate methods to control diesel emissions in working underground mines. This unique access enables OMSHR research to be focused on the problems found in this working environment and to find feasible solutions to these problems.
OMSHR research has resulted in a method to continuously monitor personal exposure to diesel particulate matter in underground mines. This instrument has been licensed and is currently being sold commercially. In addition, OMSHR research has evaluated numerous control technologies to reduce emissions from diesel equipment, including diesel particulate filters, alternative fuels (biodiesel), emissions-assisted maintenance programs, and fuel additives. Also, OMSHR scientists published a handbook to assist the coal and metal/nonmetal underground mining industries in their efforts to reduce worker exposure to aerosols and gases emitted by diesel-powered equipment. This handbook, “Diesel Aerosols and Gases in Underground Mines: Guide to Exposure Assessment and Control,” was published as a NIOSH Report of investigations (RI 9687) in October, 2011.