Project Title: Characterising potential health risks associated with coal dust
Research Theme: Licence to Operate
Supervisors: Jenny Broadhurst, Megan Becker, Jore van Holdt
Coal dust from mining and processing activities have been linked with respiratory diseases. Several physicochemical characteristics of the inhalable mixed dusts (inclusive of coal dust) have been highlighted for their potential to increase the production of excess ROS (reactive oxygen species) which ultimately leads to oxidative stress, inflammation and various subsequent respiratory diseases. To date, no systematic study has been conducted to determine the relationship between the physicochemical characteristics of coal dust and their potential to act as toxic agents. This study will: (1) develop a protocol to determine indicator variables for coal dust toxicity by quantifying and weighting the physicochemical characteristics of the dust against the toxic response of the coal. (2) Conduct in vitro assays measuring ROS produced through particle-cell interactions as an indicator of harm. (3) Develop a machine learning algorithm which will be used to determine relationships between the physicochemical characteristics of coal dust and the toxic response(s) induced, generating indicator variables for harm. A final protocol will be constructed as a screening toolkit to identify the potentially toxic variables and define a more robust measure of risk for the purposes of both decision making for regulation and risk managment of inhalable coal dust to those exposed.