Exposure assessment of elemental carbon, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and crystalline silica at the underground excavation sites for top-down construction buildings.PLoS One. 2020; 15(9):e0239010.Plos
Enclosed underground excavation worksite has an environment with poor ventilation and exposure to hazardous substances from diesel engine exhaust and construction materials. The objective of this study was to evaluate the exposure level of elemental carbon (EC), organic carbon (OC), total carbon (TC), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dust and crystalline silica (CS) during underground excavation work for top down construction buildings. Active local air sampling for EC, OC, and TC (n = 105), PAHs (n = 50), dust (n = 34) and CS (n = 34) was conducted from inside and outside the excavator at underground excavation workshop in four different construction sites. EC, OC, TC and CS were sampled with each respirable and total particulates. EC, OC, and TC were collected on quartz-filter and analyzed using the thermal optical transmittance method. PAHs was collected on polytetrafluorethylene filter with XAD-2 and analyzed using liquid chromatography with fluorescence detector. CS and particulates were collected on poly vinyl chloride filter and analyzed using fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy. The geometric mean of respirable EC, OC, TC, total PAHs, respirable dust and respirable CS were 8.69 μg/m3, 34.32 μg/m3, 44.96 μg/m3, 6.818 μg/m3 0.13 mg/m3 and 0.02 mg/m3 from inside the excavator and 33.20 μg/m3, 46.53 μg/m3, 78.21 μg/m3, 3.934 μg/m3, 0.9 mg/m3 and 0.08 mg/m3 from outside the excavator (underground excavation workshop), respectively. The EC and RCS concentration from outside the excavator is significantly higher than that of inside the excavator (p<0.01). The worksite with rock ground, higher vehicle density, blasting and enclosed environments had higher exposure to EC than other sites (p<0.05). There was no significant difference of EC concentration between total and respirable particulates. In top down construction sites, EC concentrations during underground excavation work exceeded recommended exposure limits as 20 μg/m3, accounted for about 50% of the total sample, and the level of concentration of RCS exceeded 1.5 times of occupational exposure limit, 0.05 mg/m3. Efforts are needed to minimize exposure to diesel engine exhaust and silica in underground excavation sites. Management of diesel engine vehicle, supply of fresh air and ventilation and introducing water facilities to create wet environment in underground worksites are strongly suggested.