Comparison of airborne particulate exposure in two platinum refining process areas
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The aims and objectives: The aims and objectives of this study were to characterize and compare the airborne particulate matter in the tankhouse and crusher areas of a base metal refinery sampled with two separate methods, in terms of mass concentration, nickel content, and particle size distribution. Methods: Area sampling was conducted in the two areas. Two methods were applied to collect particulate samples. The first is a multi–stage virtual impactor, the Respicon, which was used to determine the three critical particle fractions (inhalable, thoracic and respirable). The NIOSH 7300 method determined the particle concentration and nickel percentage present in each fraction. Using formulas provided by the manufacturers two additional particle–size fractions (extra–thoracic and trachea–bronchial) could be calculated. The second was based on the standard NIOSH 0500 method, which determined particle size distribution depicted as cumulative percentages. The samples were analyzed using laser scattering instrumentation. Results: In the tankhouse the highest level of exposure was to particles bigger than 10 um, with the highest nickel percentage also falling into this range. However, high nickel percentages were present in all three cut–off sizes (4 um, 10 um and > 10 um). The particle concentration for the crusher area was the highest for particulates bigger than 10 um, with the highest nickel percentage present in this fraction. After comparing the tankhouse and crusher areas, it is clear that the particle concentration is much higher in the crusher area according to all sampling methods used. The nickel content present in the analysis of these areas is of great concern. Conclusion: With the knowledge obtained through this research one hopes to establish a basis for particle size sampling in the platinum mining industry. This may lead to the development of health based OEL's and reflect a more accurate evaluation of workers particulate exposure. This information will give a greater understanding of health risks workers are exposed to.
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