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The London Underground: dust and hazards to health
  1. A Seaton1,
  2. J Cherrie1,
  3. M Dennekamp2,
  4. K Donaldson3,
  5. J F Hurley1,
  6. C L Tran1
  1. 1Institute of Occupational Medicine, Edinburgh, UK
  2. 2Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, Aberdeen University
  3. 3ELEGI Laboratory, Edinburgh University
  1. Correspondence to:
 Emeritus Professor A Seaton
 Institute of Occupational Medicine, Edinburgh, UK;


Aims: To assess hazards associated with exposure to dust in the London Underground railway and to provide an informed opinion on the risks to workers and the travelling public of exposure to tunnel dust.

Methods: Concentrations of dust, as mass (PM2.5) and particle number, were measured at different underground stations and in train cabs; its size and composition were analysed; likely maximal exposures of staff and passengers were estimated; and in vitro toxicological testing of sample dusts in comparison with other dusts was performed.

Results: Concentrations on station platforms were 270–480 μg/m3 PM2.5 and 14 000–29 000 particles/cm3. Cab concentrations over a shift averaged 130–200 μg/m3 and 17 000–23 000 particles/cm3. The dust comprised by mass approximately 67% iron oxide, 1–2% quartz, and traces of other metals, the residue being volatile matter. The finest particles are drawn underground from the surface while the coarser dust is generated by interaction of brakes, wheels, and rails. Taking account of durations of exposure, drivers and station staff would have maximum exposures of about 200 μg/m3 over eight hours; the occupational