Background

The extraction and processing of minerals generate dust emissions. Those dust levels need to be controlled not to affect workers’ health, as the inhalation of the dust generated by specific actions can be harmful in the long term.

Why is it important?

Authorities set national occupational exposure limits (i.e. maximum average levels of exposure measured over 8 hours) for general dust and certain minerals dust. IMA-Europe compiles and updates regularly a list of existing OELs over Europe.

Some mineral dust may contain respirable crystalline silica, which, when inhaled at high and repetitive doses over many years may cause silicosis. IMA-Europe’s forefront initiatives, such as SafeSilica, NEPSI, and Do It Yourself Safely Without Dust continuously help to prevent exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) across Europe.

Our views

Since 2000, IMA-Europe has developed a programme to monitor workers’ exposure to dust and crystalline silica (quartz): the IMA-Europe Dust Monitoring Programme. The resulting database allows having a complete picture of the industrial minerals industry’s exposure levels and observes an encouraging reduction in the exposures year on year.

For more than 20 years, IMA-Europe has been collecting the results of respirable dust and quartz measurements from more than 40 companies across Europe producing various industrial minerals.

The respirable dust and quartz measurements are collected according to a standardised monitoring protocol that follows strict quality criteria.

The database now includes the results of more than 40,000 respirable dust measurements.

The statistical analysis of the exposure data is performed by Utrecht University’s Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS).

The benefits of being part of the dust monitoring programme are numerous. It allows companies to

  1. Check compliance with national occupational exposure limits,
  2. Have a complete picture of existing exposure levels at their sites (high and low exposed workers),
  3. Identify situations requiring further investigation or implementation of additional control measures to reduce exposure,
  4. Monitor results/effectiveness of implemented dust control measures. As analyses of temporal trends show, it has helped IM producers to reduce exposure year on year.

The project is open at any time to any IMA-Europe member company wishing to join.

A scientific article on IMA-Europe’s dust monitoring database has been recently published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM) journal.