Monthly Archives: March 2020

Do face masks protect you from Covid-19?

We are seeing a lot of people wearing face masks to protect themselves – and others – from spreading the Covid-19 virus.  But do they work?  Here is an interesting article from a company that produces masks and other respiratory protection products.

Please follow the link provided to read the article at source.


Do masks protect you from Covid-19?

Source – BLS – Respiratory Protection Products (Made in Italy)

“Coronavirus 2019-nCoV: can a mask protect?

In these days everyone is talking about Coronavirus 2019-nCoV. We know it belongs to a family of viruses known to cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases, such as MERS and SARS. And we know that the new coronavirus deserved the 2019-nCoV acronym because it had never been encountered before. We know how it is transmitted, we know its symptoms. So why do we intervene in the debate too?

Because we have our say.

We intervene because as historical producers of masks for respiratory protection, both for professional and personal use, we have accumulated experience on the subject: experimenting, producing and testing. In these days, in the comments, we read or hear right things, but also often approximate, and sometimes wrong about the usefulness of the masks: that’s why we decided to have our say.

We think we have knowledge to share on this issue. We believe it is a duty to do it, for all companies. And even more for a company like ours – a technological boutique, as we like to define ourselves – closely linked to a historically productive Milanese territory such as Bovisa, which today works closely with the Polytechnic University of Milan, which does research and produces in Italy. An SME, as they say, that affirms Italian entrepreneurship in the world.

Dusts, mists, fumes: let’s clarify.

The ones who like us produce masks, love to see it clearly on the risk causes. For this reason, we distinguish three categories of agents – dust, mists and fumes – that make up the set of harmful particles for breathing present in the air that we all breathe.
Dust is formed when a solid material is broken down into tiny fragments. Mists are microscopic drops that are formed by nebulization and condensation processes. The fumes are formed when a material, which at room temperature and pressure presents itself in a solid state (e.g. a metal), is vaporized by the high heat. The vapor cools quickly condensing into extremely fine particles. The term particulate identifies the set of these particles present in the air (dust, fumes, mists).

To adequately protect against the risk, the legislation provides for two families of products for protection from particulates: the filtering facepiece – category III device, more commonly called “disposable mask”, for the protection of the nose and mouth – where protection from particulates is indicated with “FFP”, reference standard EN 149:2001+A1:2009, and the filters to be used with half mask or full mask – category III devices for the protection of nose, mouth, chin and possibly eyes – where protection from particulates is indicated with “P”, reference standard EN 143:2000+A1:2006. The legislation attributes increasing protection to increasing filtering efficiency: FFP1, FFP2, FFP3 / P1, P2, P3.

The protection factor: how to choose the right mask.

The legislation also indicates how to properly select a respirator based on risk assessment. It does this with the European standard EN 529:2005 which defines the “protection factor”. An important distinction concerns the nominal protection factor (FPN) and the assigned protection factor (FPA).

The nominal protection factor (FPN) is a number derived from the maximum percentage of total loss (towards the inside of the respirator) allowed by European standards. The assigned protection factor (FPA) is the level of respiratory protection which, in a realistic way, can be expected to be obtained in the workplace by 95% of PPE users.

Furthermore, an important reference for the choice of respirator is the Threshold Limit Value (TLV), which indicates the environmental concentrations of the airborne chemicals below which it is believed that most workers can remain exposed repeatedly day after day, for a working life, without any negative effect on health.

How to protect the respiratory tract from Coronaviruses: some advice.

After the necessary premises made up to here, let’s get to the point: can a mask protect us from Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)? Our experience in the production of respiratory protection devices makes us give an affirmative answer. Probably also in the case of 2019-nCoV, and with high probability in the less aggressive Coronaviruses, more common in our country.

Starting from our experience, we recommend three virtuous behaviours to protect against these viruses.

For preventive protection, it is advisable to wear disposable masks with at least the FFP2 protection level. The FFP2 filtering facepiece is suitable for protection from solid and/or non-volatile liquid particles. As an example, in our production are the masks BLS 128B/128BW, BLS 728, BLS 828.

To reduce the spread of the virus, infected people should wear disposable masks with protection level FFP2 or FFP3 without an exhalation valve. When dealing with infected people, we recommend disposable masks with protection level FFP2 or FFP3, preferably without an exhalation valve. Still as an example, in our production are the masks BLS 128B/128BW, BLS 728, BLS 828, BLS Zer030NV.

A final tip, certainly not in importance, is that a protective device is useless if it does not fit the face and is not worn correctly. Therefore, when wearing a respiratory protection device, you must always make sure that it fits on the face to guarantee an optimal seal: read the donning instructions.

To close, a reassurance. BLS products are certified as PPE according to EN 149:2001+A1:2009 in class FFP2 and FFP3 and fully correspond to the indications of the World Health Organization (WHO) – Infection prevention and control guidance.
BLS respirators are CE marked according to the European Regulation (EU) 2016/425 (Personal protective equipment).”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Technology Guides for Your Coal Mining Operations

An interesting article from Thermfisher.  Please follow the link to read the original article.

Technology Guides for Your Coal Mining Operations

A Gift of 4 Technology Guides for Your Coal Mining Operations
By Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane, Editor

“If you are involved in coal mining operations, you know that it takes many types of technology to ensure that production is optimized and the final product meets customer specifications. Here are four guides to some of the technologies used every day in coal mining, explained in an easy-to-understand manner:

PGNAA and PFTNA Analysis
Prompt gamma neutron activation analysis (PGNAA) and pulsed fast thermal neutron activation (PFTNA) are non-contact, non-destructive analytical techniques used in online analysis systems to determine the elemental composition of bulk raw materials. Both of these techniques are known collectively as neutron activation analysis and function by bombarding materials with neutrons. The neutrons interact with elements in the materials, which then emit secondary, prompt gamma rays that can be measured. The gamma-ray given off has a distinct energy associated with the atom from which it was released. In essence the gamma-ray emitted is like a “fingerprint” of the element. The emitted gamma-rays are detected and an energy spectrum generated which can then be analyzed for elemental composition. These technologies are used in coal blending and coal measurement.

XRF Technology
XRF (X-ray fluorescence) is a non-destructive analytical technique used to determine the elemental composition of materials. XRF analyzers determine the chemistry of a sample by measuring the fluorescent (or secondary) X-ray emitted from a sample when it is excited by a primary X-ray source. Each of the elements present in a sample produces a set of characteristic fluorescent X-rays (“a fingerprint”) that is unique for that specific element, which is why XRF spectroscopy is an excellent technology for qualitative and quantitative analysis of material composition.
X-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology offers low limits of detection (LOD) for some elements, making it suitable for coal applications such as the quantification of major elements and using this data to calculate ash content of coal. As, Pb, and possibly S in some coal seams can be quantified by XRF. Hg and Se in coal are lower than their LOD by XRF.

Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry (ICP-OES)
Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) is an elemental analysis technique that derives its analytical data from the emission spectra of elements excited within a high-temperature plasma.
During coal combustion, large amounts of ash are created along with carbon dioxide and other gases. The fine particle ash that rises up with the flue gases is known as fly or flue ash. The heavier ash that does not rise is called bottom ash. The chemical makeup of fly and bottom ash varies significantly and is dependent on the source and composition of the coal being burned.

TEOM technology
Tapered Element Oscillating Microbalances (TEOM) enables continuous direct mass measurements of particulates, including dust. Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis, more commonly known as CWP or black lung disease, is a devastating illness that can afflict anyone exposed to coal and crystalline silica dust. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) considers respirable coal dust to be one of the most serious occupational hazards in the mining industry. One can monitor real-time coal dust exposure with a respirable, personal dust monitor designed specifically for U.S. based mining applications, and designed to meet the latest requirements of the MSHA Dust Rule.

Coal might not be a great present during the holidays, but we hope that these technology guides for coal operations makes a good gift to our readers.”




Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Air Pollution and Children’s Health

Here are two articles regarding the effects of air pollution on the health of children. It’s very evident that all that can be done must be done to reduce air pollution!

Please follow the links provided to read the original articles.

Air Pollution and Children's Health

High air pollution exposure in one-year-olds linked to structural brain changes at age 12
by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

“A new study suggests that significant early childhood exposure to traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) is associated with structural changes in the brain at the age of 12.

The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study found that children with higher levels of TRAP exposure at birth had reductions at age 12 in gray matter volume and cortical thickness as compared to children with lower levels of exposure.

“The results of this study, though exploratory, suggest that where you live and the air you breathe can affect how your brain develops, says Travis Beckwith, Ph.D., a research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s and lead author of the study. “While the percentage of loss is far less than what might be seen in a degenerative disease state, this loss may be enough to influence the development of various physical and mental processes.”

Gray matter includes regions of the brain involved in motor control as well as sensory perception, such as seeing and hearing. Cortical thickness reflects the outer gray matter depth. The study found that specific regions in the frontal and parietal lobes and the cerebellum were affected with decreases on the order of 3 to 4 percent.

“If early life TRAP exposure irreversibly harms brain development, structural consequences could persist regardless of the time point for a subsequent examination,” says Dr. Beckwith.

The researchers on the study, which is published online in PLOS One, used magnetic resonance imaging to obtain anatomical brain images from 147 12 year olds. These children are a subset of the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS), which recruited volunteers prior to the age of six months to examine early childhood exposure to TRAP and health outcomes.

The volunteers in the CCAAPS had either high or low levels of TRAP exposure during their first year of life. The researchers estimated exposure using an air sampling network of 27 sites in the Cincinnati area, and 24/7 sampling was conducted simultaneously at four or five sites over different seasons. Participating children and their caregivers completed clinic visits at ages 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 12.

Previous studies of TRAP suggest that it contributes to neurodegenerative diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders. This work supports that TRAP changes brain structure early in life.”


Studies link air pollution to mental health issues in children
by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

“Three new studies by scientists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Cincinnati, highlight the relationship between air pollution and mental health in children.

A study to be published Sept. 25 in Environmental Health Perspectives found that short-term exposure to ambient air pollution was associated with exacerbations of psychiatric disorders in children one to two days later, as marked by increased utilization of the Cincinnati Children’s emergency department for psychiatric issues. The study also found that children living in disadvantaged neighborhoods may be more susceptible to the effects of air pollution compared to other children, especially for disorders related to anxiety and suicidality.

The lead authors of this study are Cole Brokamp, Ph.D., and Patrick Ryan, Ph.D. They are researchers in the division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Cincinnati Children’s.

“This study is the first to show an association between daily outdoor air pollution levels and increased symptoms of psychiatric disorders, like anxiety and suicidality, in children,” says Dr. Brokamp. “More research is needed to confirm these findings, but it could lead to new prevention strategies for children experiencing symptoms related to a psychiatric disorder. The fact that children living in high poverty neighborhoods experienced greater health effects of air pollution could mean that pollutant and neighborhood stressors can have synergistic effects on psychiatric symptom severity and frequency.”

Two other Cincinnati Children’s studies were recently published that also link air pollution to children’s mental health:

A study published in Environmental Research found an association between recent high traffic related air pollution (TRAP) exposure and higher generalized anxiety. The study is believed to be the first to use neuroimaging to link TRAP exposure, metabolic disturbances in the brain, and generalized anxiety symptoms among otherwise healthy children. The study found higher myoinositol concentrations in the brain—a marker of the brain’s neuroinflammatory response to TRAP.
The lead authors of this study are Kelly Brunst, Ph.D., a researcher in the department of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati, and Kim Cecil, Ph.D., a researcher at Cincinnati Children’s.
A study published in Environmental Research found that exposure to TRAP during early life and across childhood was significantly associated with self-reported depression and anxiety symptoms in 12 year olds. Similar findings have been reported in adults, but research showing clear connections between TRAP exposure and mental health in children has been limited.
The lead authors of the study are Kimberly Yolton, Ph.D., director of research in the division of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s, and Dr. Ryan.

“Collectively, these studies contribute to the growing body of evidence that exposure to air pollution during early life and childhood may contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems in adolescence,” says Dr. Ryan. “More research is needed to replicate these findings and uncover underlying mechanisms for these associations.””



Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Minerals Council Media Statement

Below is the media statement released by the Minerals Council of South Africa in January calling for the government to address the country’s economic crisis.

Please follow the link to the website and download the article for yourself if you so wish.

Minerals Council Media Statement


Johannesburg, 13 January 2020:

Ahead of tomorrow’s Business Economic Indaba (BEI) with
President Cyril Ramaphosa and other government leaders, the Minerals Council South Africa
would like to highlight the increasing urgency of a range of critical steps needed to salvage and
revive our country’s economy.

The BEI is an annual event hosted by Business Unity SA (BUSA), of which the Minerals Council
is an active member.

Says Minerals Council CEO Roger Baxter: “Investor and business confidence is declining to levels
not seen for many decades. While the situation the country faces today is a consequence of the
decade of mismanagement and corruption of a previous government, today’s political leadership
needs to act with great urgency to turn the economy and our society around”.

The following are some of the areas with which we believe government needs to get to grips.

Power security and Eskom
At the forefront of the constraints on the economy, and on the mining industry, is the insecurity of
power supply and its continuing rapidly escalating cost, and we begin on that issue. But there are
many other policy issues that also need urgent attention. The Minerals Council firmly believes that
the electricity supply crisis is the biggest single risk to the South African economy. Eskom is in a
significant crisis and cannot guarantee reliable electricity supply to meet the country’s needs.
Eskom has been indicating that it needs two years of permanent stage 2 load-shedding to give it
the space to fix certain power stations (including Medupi) back to a better reliability level. This will
be disastrous for the economy unless urgent steps are taken in the short term to encourage
additional private supply from existing and new sources.

As the Minerals Council argued in detail last month as part of a BUSA input to a NEDLAC Executive
Council meeting on the electricity crisis, government needs to act urgently to facilitate the bringing
on stream of and licensing of new private sector power options for embedded generation and
private generation for self-use, but which is fed through the national grid. In addition, government
and Eskom should be contracting in, at the least cost possible any extra renewable energy from
existing wind and solar plant that are sitting idle. The Council argues that government needs to
urgently tackle red tape which is holding up significant additional power that could be brought on
stream to bridge the gap. This red tape includes IRP2019 exemptions, NERSA generating licenses
(especially over 10 MW), environmental and land use authorisations, technical barriers and
agreement to enable wheeling on the national grid at nominal cost. The Minerals Council is not
arguing for total deregulation, but “smart tape” that facilitates investment by the private sector in
generation for our own use.

Eskom is just one state-owned enterprise in need of urgent rehabilitation, but its impact on the
economy is far more severe than any other. New CEO Andre de Ruyter now needs the full backing
of government as shareholder. Eskom requires urgent reforms and restructuring to materially
improve maintenance, improve plant reliability and to get costs under control.
We already have government’s commitment on the restructuring of Eskom into the three elements
of generation, transmission and distribution in terms of President Ramaphosa’s announcement
early in 2019 and in terms of Minister Gordhan’s Eskom restructuring roadmap. We support the
roadmap and it is essential that the restructuring proceeds. But it needs effective executive and
senior leadership to carry it out successfully. There needs to be consistency in leadership and the
Minerals Council is supportive of the ongoing leadership of Minister Gordhan. Changing this now
would be counterproductive.

Finally, Eskom’s debt needs to be drastically and creatively restructured. Ideas for achieving this
will be conveyed.

Fiscal crisis
South Africa’s fiscal metrics have deteriorated significantly over the past decade. The country’s
public debt to GDP ratio has risen from 24% in 2008 to 60% in 2020 and is set to rise further. The
fiscal deficit at 6.5% of GDP is way beyond an acceptable level. Debt servicing costs are growing
at more than double any other area of government expenditure, crowding out funds that should be
invested in education and growth. South Africa is perilously close to falling into a debt trap, one of
the reasons that the country is also in imminent danger of losing its last remaining investment
grade from a ratings agency. This threatens to exacerbate the rate of the fall in per capita GDP
which has been continuing already for some years and will further undermine business confidence,
investment, growth and employment.

The Minerals Council is calling for a more aggressive approach to fiscal consolidation and the
presentation of a budget that forces government to live within its means. There is no scope for
addressing the budget deficit through higher taxes. Personal and corporate taxes, and VAT, are
all already high and are uncompetitive by international standards. While higher taxes on companies
and wealthier taxpayers may win some populist political kudos for government, they would further
damage confidence and growth potential. And, in any event, because of the narrow tax base, they
would not generate more than a tiny fraction of what would be needed.

Solutions lie only in addressing government spending, broadening the tax base (through higher
growth and job creation), stopping the continued waste of resources going into bailing out several
state-owned enterprises and restoring the credibility of SARS. One of the challenges lies in
government persuading its public sector union allies of the need for moderation in the public sector
earnings and jobs numbers sphere. Given that the public sector wage bill accounts for over half of
the national budget, crucial steps to moderate wage driven fiscal pressures need consideration by
all participants. Government needs to also crack the whip on unauthorised expenditure and to
ensure that corruption and malfeasance in procurement and contracting in government and SOEs
is dealt with through proper prosecutions in 2020.

It is to be hoped that the rescue and rehabilitation of SARS will soon begin to mitigate the impact
of the deficit caused by the revenue service’s near implosion in the years till 2018.
Microeconomic and related policy initiatives

The Minerals Council also calls for the urgent implementation of a range of policies and
interventions that would encourage investment and growth. The National Treasury’s economic
strategy paper published in August 2019 is also important initiative whose implementation would
serve this goal:

• Pathways should be created for private competition and private concessioning in critical
network industries (ports, rail, water, gas, energy).
• Urgent steps are required to restore confidence in the criminal justice system and the rule
of law. An urgent crack-down on everything from organised crime to bad driving and petty
crime is needed to restore the rule of law.
• Additional budget allocations to support the SAPS in the fight against crime, but conditional
based on performance objectives.
• The re-establishment of the specialised police units (such as a specialised mining unit).
• While we appreciate the cases launched late last year against several individuals allegedly
party to state capture activities, what is needed is the prosecution of the top political and
business people involved in state capture.
• Urgent steps to continue to restore confidence in the National Prosecuting Authority
including material increases in the budget allocations and re-capacitation of prosecution
and forensic teams to support the new Head of the NPA.
• A 10-a-side business CEO-Economic Cluster of Ministers forum be established to drive the
improvement in South Africa’s WEF Competitiveness Rankings and World Bank Ease of
Doing Business rankings. The target should be to get into the top 25% of competitiveness
and doing business rankings by 2025.
• Every single department, Minister and DG should be required to produce a plan for how
that department will ease the doing of business (help the country improve its
competitiveness rankings) to promote investment in the economy, with monthly feedback
to the Presidency on progress.
• Key policy and regulatory challenges require urgent resolution and certainty (on land
expropriation without compensation and on continuing consequences for previous BEE
transactions in mining).
• Urgent implementation of coordinated efforts to drive the roll out of infrastructure projects.

South Africa’s economic future depends on urgent action from government. The action includes
urgent steps to fast track additional private power generation for self-use and contracting in
additional power from existing solar and wind farms at least cost as short term measures while
meaningful reforms and changes at Eskom are implemented and the ESI is restructured, the
development of a conservative fiscal plan to prevent the country falling into a debt trap and very
specific measures to boost confidence and kickstart higher investment and growth in the economy.
The Minerals Council, and organised business in general, stands ready to work with and partner
government wherever possible and appropriate.”

Charmane Russell




Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.