1 Department of Occupational Health, School of Public Health, Tehran University of Medical
Sciences, Tehran, Iran
2 Department of Occupational Health, School of Public Health, Birjand University of Medical
Sciences, Birjand, Iran
3 Department of Environmental Health Engineering, School of Health, Torbat Heydariyeh University of
Medical Sciences, Torbat Heydariyeh, Iran
4 Health Sciences Research Center, Torbat Heydariyeh University of Medical
Sciences, Torbat Heydariyeh, Iran
5 Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
6 Department of Basic Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Gonabad University of Medical Sciences,
Background and Objective:
Silica dust is present in almost all mining operations and can cause various health problems such as silicosis in workers. The present study aimed to determine the total and respirable dust levels and the crystalline silica content of the soil in the breathing zone of workers in Iranian mines.
This cross-sectional study was carried out in 2016-2017 on six Iranian silica mines. Dust sampling was performed according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) method No. 0600. The samples were collected from the respiratory zone of workers at 114 stations in different units of the mines. The silica content was measured using the standard NIOSH method No. 7601. The crystalline silica content in bulk samples collected from the soil was determined by using the X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) spectroscopy method.
The highest concentration of crystalline silica dust was 2.81±0.49 mg/m3 and was observed in the air of crushing unit of mine no. 6, and the lowest was 0.08±0.208 mg/m3 and was measured in the management/administration unit of mine no.1. The mean silica content in the solid surface of the mines was 91%. The total and respirable dust levels in all units of the mines except management/administration were higher than the permissible limit. The free silica content of all collected samples was substantially higher than the permissible limits, and in some cases, it was as much as 100 times above the standard level, which reflects the extremely high risk of working in these mines.
Exposure of workers with crystalline silica dust in all units was higher than the standard recommended limits. It is imperative to adopt immediate measures based on technical, managerial, and personal protection solutions to reduce the exposure of workers to silica.
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* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Occupational Health, School of Public Health, Birjand University of Medical Sciences, Birjand, Iran; Tel: +9851532381664; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org