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Mortality in the UK industrial silica sand industry: 1. Assessment of exposure to respirable crystalline silica
  1. T P Brown,
  2. L Rushton
  1. Medical Research Council Institute for Environment and Health, Leicester, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr T P Brown
 Medical Research Council Institute for Environment and Health, 94 Regent Road, Leicester LE1 7DD, UK;


Aims: To develop a job-exposure matrix (JEM) from personal and static respirable crystalline silica (RCS) measurements in UK industrial silica sand workers.

Methods: A total of 2429 personal and 583 static RCS dust samples were collected using cyclone samplers at seven UK quarries between 1978 and 2000. These data were combined, and analysis of variance using general linear models was used to evaluate the effect of quarry, job, and year on RCS concentrations, and facilitate the creation of five quarry and three time categories with similar exposure levels by comparing the least-square GM RCS concentrations.

Results: The overall geometric mean (GM) RCS concentration was 0.09 mg/m3 (geometric standard deviation 3.9). Silica flour and dry job categories tended to have the highest RCS exposure and 13.3% of all samples exceeded the UK maximum exposure level of 0.3 mg/m3. RCS levels generally decreased over time.

Conclusions: Data have been collected and used to develop a JEM for UK industrial silica sand workers between 1978 and 2000. Although there were some limitations in the data and certain assumptions were made, the use of available data to estimate exposure quantitatively is an improvement over the use of qualitative and surrogate measures of exposure. The continual collection of dust measurements in the industry is essential to facilitate the exploration of exposure-response relations that may exist between silica and silicosis, lung cancer, and other diseases.

  • GM, geometric mean
  • GSD, geometric standard deviation
  • JEM, job-exposure matrix
  • MEL, maximum exposure limit
  • RCS, respirable crystalline silica
  • RPE, respiratory protective equipment
  • silica
  • industrial sand industry
  • exposure assessment
  • job exposure matrix

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  • Competing interests: none declared