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Air quality: The unseen effects of explosive detonations

When you think about some of the dangers of mining, your thoughts might turn to hazards like collapsing mines, premature detonation of explosives and other similar hazards. Some people might not realize that even a planned explosion can cause serious health hazards for miners in the area.

Explosives play a huge part in mining operations. These devices break up host rock, ores, coals and overburden into pieces that can be removed from the mine. It is obvious that miners and anyone near the mine would need to take precautions so that they aren't injured during the explosion. Not every realizes that just because you don't suffer from an injury caused by the blast doesn't mean that you aren't being negatively affected by the detonation.

After each detonation, the air quality in the area changes. The actual components of each explosive device determine exactly how the air quality changes. One constant change is that the oxygen concentration drops with each detonation. That means that you aren't breathing air after the explosion that is as pure as prior to the explosion.

In some cases, carbon monoxide, ammonia, carbon dioxide or sulfur dioxide might be released into the air after a detonation. Each of these gases, as well as others that might occur, can have a negative impact on your health. In extreme cases, the change in air quality can kill miners.

Monitoring air quality after a detonation is vital. If you suffer from a medical condition caused by a decrease in the air quality at a mine, you might opt to seek compensation for your injury.

Source: United States Department of Labor, "Effects of Blasting on Air Quality," accessed July 23, 2015

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