A comprehensive assessment of exposures to respirable dust and silica in the taconite mining industry

Jooyeon Hwang, Gurumurthy Ramachandran, Peter C. Raynor, Bruce H. Alexander, Jeffrey H. Mandel

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11 Scopus citations


This study assessed the present-day levels (year 2010–2011) of exposure to respirable dust (RD) and respirable silica (RS) in taconite mines and evaluated how the mining process influences exposure concentrations. Personal samples (n = 679) were collected to assess exposure levels of workers to RD and RS at six mines in the Mesabi Iron Range of Minnesota. The RD and RS concentrations were measured using the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 0600 and NIOSH 7500, respectively. Between-mine, between-SEG (similar exposure groups), within-SEG, and within-worker components of variability for RD and RS exposures were estimated using a two- or three-way nested random-effects ANOVA model. The majority of RD concentrations across all mines were below the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL). The highest concentrations of RD were often observed in either the Pelletizing or Crushing departments, which are inherently dusty operations.With a few exceptions, the concentrations of RS in the crushing and concentrating processes were higher than those in the othermining processes, as well as higher than the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV) for RS. The magnetic separation and flotation processes in the concentrating department reduced the levels of RS significantly, and lowered the percentage of quartz in RD in the pelletizing department. There was little variability among the six mines or between the two mineralogically distinct zones for either RD or RS exposures. The between-SEG variability for RS did not differ substantially across most of the mines and was a major component of exposure variance. The within-SEG (or between-worker) variance component was typically the smallest because in many instances one worker from a SEG within a mine was monitored multiple times. Some of these findings were affected by the degree of censoring in each SEG andmine, characteristics of the taconite rock, seasonal effects during sampling, or the tasks assigned to each job in that mine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-388
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of occupational and environmental hygiene
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 4 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 JOEH, LLC.


  • Exposure assessment
  • Respirable dust
  • Respirable silica (quartz)
  • Taconite
  • Variance components


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