What are the Health Effects of Industrial Dust?

Fume Extraction arm

What is Dust?

Dust consists of tiny, dry, solid particles (in size from 1 µm up to around 100 µm). This matter could be airborne or sitting still on a surface. The particles are usually light and often invisible to the naked eye so are not often noticed as an obvious harm to workers health.

Exposure needs to be prevented or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled. Dust can travel into the body in various different ways:

  • Inhaling the dust into the lungs
  • Swallowing dust
  • Eye contact
  • Skin contact

In many production processes, dust is being generated and inhaled by workers. This fact makes the workplace of some individuals a common place where they are affected by hazardous dust.

Examples of hazardous dust in the workplace:

  • mineral dust;
  • metallic dust;
  • chemical dust;
  • vegetable dust;
  • moulds and spores.

Industrial Dust and Its Harms

For those of us who work with the above-mentioned materials, the potential harm caused by the inhaling of dust is not uncommon. The after-effects depend on the amounts of dust inhaled and its type. For instance, in a previous article, we have talked about the manganese in welding rods, the inhaling of which can cause manganism. The symptoms of which are similar to those of Parkinson’s disease.

Too many dust particles in the air can lead to:

  • Irritation of the eyes and skin;
  • Allergic rhinitis;
  • Coughing;
  • Sneezing;
  • Asthma attacks.

Common diseases from different dust particles are:

  • Silicosis – the symptoms of which are inflammation and scarring of the lungs.
  • Asbestosis – triggered by exposure to asbestos fibres, the symptoms are heavy breathing and loss of weight.
  • Occupational Lung Disease – symptoms of that disease are coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain.

The prolonged exposure of industrial dust can lead even to lung cancer. Some dust particles are so small that they directly absorb themselves in the bloodstream eliminating some of the common symptoms and instead lead to nausea, loss of balance and other symptoms, usually typical for poisoning.

The most hazardous types of dust are:

  • Asbestos
  • Flour
  • Wood
  • Dust from rocks, sand, clay, bricks & concrete (the collective noun for this is Silica)
  • Grain

How Can You Protect Yourself?

For lots of workers, the exposure to industrial dust is most common in woodworking and metalworking workshops and even in bakeries. Those facilities are obliged to install filtration systems in order to keep the exposure of the workers to a minimum. This can only be achieved with a proper dust extraction system. In most welding workshops, you will find a fume extractor, which can filtrate the toxic fumes at source, and a dust extractor, that will eliminate the metallic dust from the air. The dust extraction in such facilities could be achieved in different ways. However, it is mostly done through a series of vents and an industrial dust extractor at the other end designed specifically to your workshop processes.

Within the woodworking industry, there are a lot of power tools designed with an integrated woodworking dust extractors. The goal is to minimise the number of particles that could disperse into the air. However, a substantial amount of vegetable dust is still able to escape thanks to wind drifts from compressors, movement, door opening, and the spinning of saws and such. That is why such establishments can also benefit from a proper workshop dust extractor.

If you ever find yourself working in an environment heavily contaminated with dust in the air, and you see that no measures were taken from upper management, you can signal to higher authorities like the HSE in the UK. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Heath (COSHH) is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health and includes strict regulations about the amount of dust that is acceptable to float in the air. Those regulations often target the milligrams of dust particles accumulated for a unit of time in a cubic meter. For each different substance, there is a different acceptable amount of pollutants. Some types of dusts, but not all, even have specific Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) which help to provide a guide for employers.

If you want to ensure the healthy work environment for your own workshop we advise you to seek professional help and don’t rely on built-in dust extractors in your tools. A dust extraction system installed in your garage can ensure you lots of hours enjoying your hobby. And for those of you that need to provide up to standard working conditions for their employees, a commercial-grade dust and fume extraction systems are a must.

You can call in Ducting Express at 01455 616444 and the experienced customer care representatives can give you more information about the available products and work with you in order to create a bespoke system to suit your workshops needs.