Occupational exposure limits for respirable coal dust are based on exposure during working hours, but coal miners may experience additional community-based exposures during nonworking hours. We analyzed Australia National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) data for the years 2008–2018 to estimate air pollutants (metals, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter ≤ 10 micrometers (PM10) and ≤2.5 micrometers (PM2.5)) originating from coal mines. PM10 levels from community-based air monitors in Queensland and New South Wales were also compared between mining and nonmining communities. Results indicated that tons of coal mined increased over the study period, and that levels of particulate matter, metals, and nitrogen oxides increased significantly over time as well. Coal mines accounted for 42.1% of national PM10 air emissions from NPI sites. PM2.5 from coal mines accounted for 19.5% of the national total, metals for 12.1%, and nitrogen oxides for 10.1%. Coal mining occurred in 57 different post codes; the 20 coal-mining post codes with the highest PM10 emissions were home to 160,037 people. Emissions of all studied pollutants were significantly higher from coal mining sites than from other types of NPI sites. Results from community-based air monitoring stations indicated significantly higher population PM10 exposure in coal mining communities than in nonmining communities. The health of the public at large is impacted by coal mining, but to the extent that miners also live near coal mining operations, their total exposure is underestimated by consideration of exposure only during working hours.
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