Respirable coal mine dust: A review of respiratory deposition, regulations and characterization

Younes Shekarian, Elham Rahimi, Mohammad Rezaee, Wei Chung Su, Pedram Roghanchi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


In the late 1990s, despite years of efforts to understand and reduce coal worker’s pneumo-coniosis (CWP) prevalence from more than 30% in 1970 to less than 4.2%, the level of occurrence among the US coal miners increased unexpectedly. The recent resurgence of lung diseases has raised concerns in the scientific and regulatory communities. In 2014, the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued a new dust rule changing the respirable coal mine dust (RCMD) exposure limits, measurement technology, and sampling protocol. The analysis for proba-ble causes for the substantial increase in the CWP incidence rate is rather complicated. This paper aims to conduct a review of RCMD respiratory deposition, health effects, monitoring, regulations, and particle characteristics. The primary sources of RCMD along with the health risks from potential exposure are highlighted, and the current RCMD exposure regulations of the major coal pro-ducer countries are compared. A summary of RCMD characterization studies from 1972 to the present is provided. A review of the literature revealed that numerous factors, including geological and mining parameters, advancements in mining practices, particle characteristics, and monitoring approaches are considered to contribute to the recent resurgence of RCMD lung diseases. However, the root causes of the problem are still unknown. The effectiveness of the new dust rules in the United States will probably take years to be correctly assessed. Therefore, future research is needed to understand the relationship between RCMD particle characteristics and lung deposition, and the efficacy of current monitoring practices to measure the true dose of RCMD exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number696
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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