What Types of Dust Exist in Your Work?
Dust is dust is dust...right? Wrong!
There are, in fact, about as many types or dust as there are industries that produce it.
Understanding what types of dust are produced in your industry or work, as well as the typical particle size, can help you choose the right collection methods.
Because of the nature of the materials, as well as the wide use, concrete dust is one of the most common forms of dust you will find.
Typically, dust is highly visible, so you can usually tell whether or not the dust is present. It can be abrasive, has a good flow with air dispersal, but it can also stay in the air for much longer. One of the challenges with concrete dust is that it has a wide range of particle sizes, requiring a versatile collection and filtering system.
Like concrete dust, wood dust has a high variety of particle sizes, making diverse collection and filtration methods important. The biggest concern with wood dust is that it is both combustible and potentially explosive, creating fire and safety hazards in large concentrations.
Many different industries produce metal dust. Depending on the specific metal, this can be one of the most dangerous forms of industrial dust. It is highly abrasive, creating the potential for significant long-term health problems.
Exposure to aluminum dust and fumes, for example, can actually bring impairment to cognition and movement and cholestasis, a condition that affects the liver, according to OSHA.
Many products use rubber, but the most well-known product is, of course, the car tire. No matter what the specific industry, rubber manufacturing can produce dust that is combustible and even explosive in the right conditions.
It is also statically chargeable, which creates other hazards but also makes it susceptible to collection through electrostatic precipitators. Under certain conditions, it can be self-igniting.
According to a review of studies from numerous medical and scientific sources, working in the rubber-manufacturing industry creates many health hazards, including "leukemia, lymphoma, and cancers of the urinary bladder, lung, and stomach."
In addition, if stored indoors rubber can off-gas. A common chemical released from car tires is benzene. The best way to remove this dangerous gas is with ventilation. If you cannot properly ventilate your space, then using an air purifier with high quality activated carbon can adsorb it from the air.
Leather is similar to rubber when it is in dust form. It is combustible, potentially explosive, creating a surprising safety hazard. Studies have found that leather has the potential to cause cancer in the nasal cavities and sinus areas. As such, it is classified as a carcinogen.
Carbon fiber is a polymer material that is also known as graphite fiber. It is stronger than steel and twice as stiff, but also incredibly lightweight, making it ideal for thousands of different products.
Carbon fiber is used in fishing rods, bicycles, aircraft, cars, plumbing, boat propellers, and more. The uses are practically limitless, but the dust created by manufacturing this material can be harmful. It has a medium flow velocity and is potentially combustible and explosive in certain concentrations.
Not to be confused with carbon fiber, fiberglass is a reinforced material made from glass fibers embedded with resin and other adhesives to hold it together. It can be woven or in sheets, and is used in various products, automobiles, boat hulls, aircraft, electronics, insulation, and medical supplies. The material is also used for wind turbine blades (as is carbon fiber). Fiberglass presents challenges because it has a poor flow in the air. It is also abrasive on the skin or when inhaled, and can carry a static charge, creating significant hazards.
Perhaps one of the most widely-used materials in the world, plastic comes in many different varieties, from light and flexible to dense, strong, and rigid. We won’t go too deep into the various forms of plastic (polyethylene terephthalate, anyone?) but just know that plastic dust in general can carry a static charge, be abrasive, and, depending on the type, could contain harmful chemicals.
Brick manufacturing requires working with clay, molding the materials, kilning the bricks, and drying them thoroughly. Even working with bricks in the final construction phase can result in exposure to brick dust, which has significant health hazards. It has a wide grain spectrum, so a variety of collection measures are required. It also has a high abrasiveness and in general it will have a high flow velocity.
If you are trained as a welder, you already understand the inherent health risks from this occupation. While many people know about the risks for vision, which require a welding mask, fumes from welding also create health problems. As a welder or anyone who works near welders, you could be exposed to free-flowing fumes and a fine dust, which require extremely fine filtering."