Mining Contract: Feasibility Testing of a Near Real Time Respirable Silica Monitor

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Contract # 75D30118C03021
Start Date 9/24/2018
End Date 4/21/2020
Research Concept

This contract will test the feasibility of developing a technology for testing respirable silica dust via a near real-time monitoring device to be used during coal miners' shifts.

Contract Status & Impact

This contract is complete. To receive a copy of the final report, send a request to

Silica dust is generated incidental to the mining and processing activities of coal, industrial minerals, metal, sandstone and gravel. Silicosis is an occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust, which results in inflammation and scarring in the upper lobes of the lungs.

The intent of this work is to develop hardware and a measurement system that could eventually be developed into a wearable configuration to measure respirable silica dust during a miner's working shifts.  The goal of the contract is to determine the performance of Quantum Cascade Technology (QCL) as it relates to a potentially field deployable, wearable, near real-time silica measurement system that supports OSHA and MSHA silica standards. Thermo Fisher Scientific will produce a prototype and conduct experiments on silica identification, detection limit, repeatability, and system stability when exposed to environmental factors. In addition to the detection portion, sample collection equipment and techniques will be designed and tested such that a silica monitoring system can be evaluated in a "holistic" context.

OSHA rules were announced on March 24, 2016, setting a standard of 50 μg/m3 crystalline silica dust, averaged over an eight-hour shift. The rule took effect on June 23, 2016, with a five-year window of compliance. MSHA has retained the former OSHA limit of 100 μg/m3 of crystalline silica dust per shift.

Page last reviewed: 3/25/2022 Page last updated: 1/9/2019