Introduction Since 2000, a prospective Dust Monitoring Program (DMP) has systematically collected respirable dust and quartz measurements from companies across Europe producing industrial minerals (IMA-Europe). Currently, the IMA-DMP database includes more than 28,000 personal respirable dust measurements collected in 23 European countries. This database offers opportunities to monitor long-term temporal trends in respirable dust and quartz concentrations and gain unique insight into long-term trends in temporal and personal variability.
Methods The exposure data were obtained at company level following a standardised protocol including a common sampling strategy. Following strict quality control exposure data were consequently added to the database. The exposure data were collected during 29 sampling campaigns (2000–2015). Long-term temporal trends in exposure concentrations were studied by using linear mixed effect models, in which time trends were estimated taken into account important determinants like jobs, minerals and sites.
Results Time-trend analyses showed clear downward trends in exposure to both respirable dust and quartz which came to a halt at around 2009. A reversed trend (increasing exposure levels) which lasted from 2009 to 2012 was most likely a consequence of detrimental effects (lack of maintenance of control measures, delayed investments and downsizing of workforces) of the most recent economic crisis that started in 2008. Statistical analyses of the most recent campaigns (2012–2015) show steady exposure concentrations.
Conclusion This unique IMA-DMP database provides the European minerals sector with highly reliable information regarding worker exposures to dust and quartz during the last 15 years. It has also shown to be a powerful management tool to effectively improve exposure control. However, this database has also shown that despite all this, negative macro-economic developments affect personal exposure concentrations in an unwanted direction. Having this information available and the constant feedback to the participating companies enables companies to act swiftly and turn unwanted developments around.