The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) conducted a joint survey to determine the range of coal particle sizes found in dust samples collected from intake airways of US coal mines. The last comprehensive survey of this type was performed in the 1920s. The size of the coal dust is relevant to the amount of rock dust required to inert the coal dust, with more rock dust needed to inert finer sizes of coal dust. Dust samples were collected by MSHA inspectors from several mines in each of MSHA's 10 bituminous Coal Mine Safety and Health Districts. Samples were normally collected in several intakes at each mine. The laboratory analysis procedures included acid leaching of the sample to remove the limestone rock dust, sonic sieving to determine the dust size, and low-temperature ashing of the sieved fractions to correct for any remaining incombustible matter. The results indicate that particle sizes of mine coal dust in intake airways are finer than those measured in the 1920s. This finer size coal dust in intake airways would require more incombustible matter to be effectively inerted than the 65% incombustible specified in current regulations.
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