Volume 2, Issue 4 (April 2005)
Infrared Analysis of Respirable Coal Mine Dust for Quartz: Thirty-Five Years
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) analyzes respirable coal mine dust samples for quartz content using infrared spectrometry. Samples are low-temperature ashed in an oxygen plasma, suspended in isopropanol, and redeposited onto a vinyl/acrylic copolymer filter for analysis using a Fourier transform infrared spectrometer. The on-filter infrared method was developed by the United States Bureau of Mines and collaboratively tested by Stanford Research Institute (SRI) under contract to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Bureau of Mines. The results of the collaborative study were published in 1983. Although much work has been performed since then to improve the precision of the method, details of those improvements have not always been published. Standard methods often do not discuss analytical theory and the preliminary steps necessary to achieve precise results. This paper gives a brief background of the changes that have been made in the procedures used for the analysis of respirable coal mine dust samples for quartz and discusses the current procedures used by MSHA to analyze such samples. Factors affecting the analysis such as optimization of the deposit size of the ashed sample, the importance of centering the sample in the infrared beam, baseline selection points, and peak measurement techniques, as well as the quality assurance procedure and the precision of the analysis, are discussed.