Asbestos inhalation is associated with fatal respiratory diseases and raises concerns from the perspective of workplace safety and environmental impacts. Asbestos and asbestos-like minerals naturally occur in rocks and may become airborne when outcrops or soils are disturbed by anthropic activities. In situ detection of these minerals is a crucial step for the risk evaluation of natural sites. We assess here whether a portable Raman spectrometer (pRS) may be used in the identification of asbestos and asbestos-like minerals at the mining front during exploitation. pRS performance was tested at three geologically different mining sites in Italy and New Caledonia and compared with a high-resolution micro-Raman spectrometer (HRS). About 80% of the overall in situ analyses at the mining front were successfully identified by pRS, even when intermixed phases or strongly disaggregated and altered samples were analyzed. Chrysotile and tremolite asbestos, asbestos-like antigorite, and balangeroite were correctly detected during surveys. The major difficulties faced during in situ pRS measurements were fluorescence emission and focussing the laser beam on non-cohesive bundles of fibers. pRS is adequate for discriminating asbestos and asbestos-like minerals in situ. pRS may support risk assessment of mining sites to better protect workers and environment
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