The West German experience with using diesel equipment in underground coal mines was discussed. Comparisons between diesel engines used in motor vehicles and mine equipment were made. It was suggested that concerns about the health effects of diesel exhaust emissions have been overemphasized. Even though automobiles with diesel engines operate in an environment that is not restricted compared with the mine environment, the driver and passengers are breathing the same exhaust. A study of nonsmoking individuals breathing urban air containing diesel exhausts has shown that they had, at most, 3 percent carboxyhemoglobin in their blood while smokers had 9.6 percent. A level of 4 percent carboxyhemoglobin was recommended by the World Health Organization as the maximum acceptable limit thus indicating that diesel exhaust emissions did not exceed acceptable levels. The administrative setup for regulating the West German coal industry was described. The West German standards for soot, carbon-monoxide (630080), nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons as they apply to using diesel equipment in underground mines were discussed. It was noted that since oil imported from the Near East has become very expensive, previously inactive coal mines have become reactivated. Very little interest, however, has been shown in the health effects of exposure to diesel exhaust emissions. The author concludes that since the market for diesel equipment in underground mines is increasing, the health implications of diesel exhaust should be considered. The transcript of a question and answer session was included.
Proceedings of a Workshop on the Use of Diesel Equipment in Underground Coal Mines, Morgantown, West Virginia, September 19-23, 1977; Morgantown, West Virginia, NIOSH