During mortar removal with a right angle grinder, a building renovation process known as "tuck pointing," worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica can be as high as 5 mg/m3, 100 times the recommended exposure limit developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. To reduce the risk of silicosis among these workers, a vacuum cleaner can be used to exhaust 80 ft3/min (2.26 m3/min) from a hood mounted on the grinder. Field trials examined the ability of vacuum cleaners to maintain adequate exhaust ventilation rates and measure exposure outcomes when using this engineering control. These field trials involved task-based exposure measurement of respirable dust and crystalline silica exposures during mortar removal. These measurements were compared with published exposure data. Vacuum cleaner airflows were obtained by measuring and digitally logging vacuum cleaner static pressure at the inlet to the vacuum cleaner motor. Static pressures were converted to airflows based on experimentally determined fan curves. In two cases, video exposure monitoring was conducted to study the relationship between worker activities and dust exposure. Worker activities were video taped concurrent with aerosol photometer measurement of dust exposure and vacuum cleaner static pressure as a measure of airflow. During these field trials, respirable crystalline silica exposures for 22 samples had a geometric mean of 0.06 mg/m3 and a range of less than 0.01 to 0.86 mg/m3. For three other studies, respirable crystalline silica exposures during mortar removal have a geometric means of 1.1 to 0.35. Although this field study documented noticeably less exposure to crystalline silica, video exposure monitoring found that the local exhaust ventilation provided incomplete dust control due to low exhaust flow rates, certain work practices, and missing mortar. Vacuum cleaner airflow decrease had a range of 3 to 0.4 ft3/min (0.08 to 0.01 m3/sec2) over a range of vacuum cleaners, hose diameters, and hose lengths. To control worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica, local exhaust ventilation needs to be incorporated into a comprehensive silica control program that includes respiratory protection, worker training, and local exhaust ventilation.
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