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Exposure to Fibres, Crystalline Silica, Silicon Carbide and Sulphur Dioxide in the Norwegian Silicon Carbide Industry

Authors
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
Volume
52
Issue
5
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1093/annhyg/men029
Keywords
  • Original Articles
Disciplines
  • Mathematics

Abstract

Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess personal exposure to fibres, crystalline silica, silicon carbide (SiC) and sulphur dioxide in the Norwegian SiC industry. Methods: Approximately 720 fibre samples, 720 respirable dust samples and 1400 total dust samples were collected from randomly chosen workers from the furnace, processing and maintenance departments in all three Norwegian SiC plants. The respirable dust samples were analysed for quartz, cristobalite and non-fibrous SiC content. Approximately 240 sulphur dioxide samples were collected from workers in the furnace department. Results: The sorting operators from all plants, control room and cleaning operators in Plant A and charger, charger/mix and payloader operators in Plant C had a geometric mean (GM) of fibre exposure above the Norwegian occupational exposure limit (OEL) (0.1 fibre cm−3). The cleaner operators in Plant A had the highest GM exposure to respirable quartz (20 μg m−3). The charger/mix operators in Plant C had the highest GM exposure to respirable cristobalite (38 μg m−3) and the refinery crusher operators in Plant A had the highest GM exposure to non-fibrous SiC (0.65 mg m−3). Exposure to the crystalline silica and non-fibrous SiC was generally low and between 0.4 and 2.1% of the measurements exceeded the OELs. The cleaner operators in Plant A had the highest GM exposure to respirable dust (1.3 mg m−3) and total dust (21 mg m−3). GM exposures for respirable dust above the Norwegian SiC industry-specific OEL of 0.5 mg m−3 were also found for refinery crusher operators in all plants and mix, charger, charger/mix and sorting operators in Plant C. Only 4% of the total dust measurements exceeded the OEL for nuisance dust of (10 mg m−3). Exposure to sulphur dioxide was generally low. However, peaks in the range of 10–100 p.p.m. were observed for control room and crane operators in Plants A and B and for charger and charger/mix operators in Plant C. Conclusion: Workers in the SiC industry are exposed to a mixture of several agents including SiC fibres, quartz, cristobalite, non-fibrous SiC and sulphur dioxide. Exposure levels were generally below the current Norwegian OELs; however, high exposure to fibres and respirable dust still occurs in the furnace department.

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