Photoelectric Readings. Their Significance for Dust Control in Collieries

Kitson, G. H. J. ; Haven, Y. J. F. ; Beadle, D. G.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 18
Publication Date: Jan 10, 1968
I have read this paper with considerable interest. By using an automatic instrument to assess the dust samples taken in South African collieries, the authors are ahead of the gold mining industry, which still uses the laborious method of microscopic assessment, with its limited accuracy, of the half-a-million dust samples taken each year. As the authors state, the result obtained from the photoelectric assessment of the samples is approximately proportional to the surface area of the respirable dust. However, modern theory is that, in assessing coal dust, it is the respirable mass which is important in determining the danger to health. Thus Table II of their paper is of considerable value in showing the relationship between the P.E.R. value and the mass concentration measurement. Unfortunately this table only gives the mean relationship. The important point is to know the scatter around this mean. If the scatter is small, then this mean value (for different operations) would have considerable value in converting from respirable surface area to respirable mass, but if the scatter is large, then such a conversion, using a fixed factor, will have little value. In the text the authors mention the range of values as being between 3 to 24, but without a statement on the number of samples used to determine this range and their distribution, this is a rather nebulous statement. I hope, in their reply, that the authors will give, in statistical terms, some statement on the overall correlation between these two parameters. I might add that at present a member of my staff is working on similar relationships for dust samples taken in gold mines. Another factor which may well be most important in determining the danger of dust levels in coal mines is the composition of the dust, specifically its quartz content. I understand that the authors have some information on this point, and to make their results of greater value in International comparisons of dust levels and the concomitant development of pneumoconiosis, it will be extremely useful if they could place this information on record. Even though, as I have said above, modern theory postulates that respirable mass is a better parameter to use than respirable surface area, the problem remains of how to measure this parameter with short time sampling, which, as the authors point out, is their preferred strategy for dust sampling and dust control. I know of no easily portable instrument, independent of external power supplies, which can, in 5 to 10 minutes, collect sufficient dust to enable it to be weighed accurately. Thus the authors' implied intention of continuing to sample by their present techniques and using their present parameter to report the results is, in my opinion, an entirely valid decision.
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