Experiments were undertaken to determine the toxicity in the lung of dust generated by opencast coal mining. Since it was impractical to collect the large mass of actual opencast respirable dust required for the toxicity experiment, a surrogate dust with the same size distribution was manufactured (PSW). This surrogate dust had the same basic mineralogical composition as mineralogically characterized airborne dust collected from the welsh coal opencast pit at Park Slip West. Diesel exhaust particles (DEP), generated from mining vehicular and mechanical activity, contribute towards opencast particulate matter. Therefore, a second dust comprising of a 50/50 by weight mixture of the surrogate mineral dust and diesel soot was also examined (PSW + DEP). These dusts and DEP (weak biological reactivity) and α-quartz (high biological reactivity) were instilled into the lungs of healthy rats. The animals were sacrificed at 1, 6 and 11 weeks. Assessments of potential toxicity included lung to body weight ratios, acellular protein in lung lavage (markers of lung permeability) and total free cells (marker of inflammation). The surrogate opencast dust with or without DEP caused no significant increases in any of the parameters studied and as such was very similar to the weak biological effects of DEP alone. These effects contrasted sharply with those observed for the bioreactive mineral, quartz that induced rapid increases in permeability and a progressive inflammation. The use of a surrogate is less desirable then the real opencast mine dust, however, if as believed, the surrogate material is a representative mixture of the actual airborne dust around this opencast site, then these particles should show little or no short-term lung toxicity following inhalation.

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