Types Of Dust

July 31st, 2014 General

In its most basic form, dust consists of small particles that float throughout the atmosphere. Depending on the environment or industry being worked in, dust can mix with anything from pollen, to skin cells, to harmful pollution particles. Dust can develop from a number of sources, but let’s take a look at some of the most common forms of dust in construction settings and the dangers that they pose.

Concrete Dust:  When working with concrete, silica dust becomes airborne and can potentially be toxic. Exposure to silica dust can lead to silicosis, a disease caused by breathing in too much of the crystalline silica found in dust. These fine particles can lead to the thickening or scarring of the lungs, and ultimately cause lung cancer.

Wood Dust:  Also known as sawdust, wood dust is a result of manipulating wood. Be it by sanding, grinding, drilling, or cutting, fine particles of wood are released into the air, forming a layer of dust once settled. Wood dust can be dangerous when airborne and inhaled.  It could potentially cause allergic reactions, issues with the oral mucous membrane, or cancer, though the extent of these risks has not been fully established.

Chalk Dust: Chalk dust is the fine, powdered ruminants of used chalk. The elements of the dust are considered non-toxic, meaning there is no threat upon ingesting them, but the dust still has the ability to accumulate in the respiratory system. With overexposure, respiratory problems such as difficulty breathing or chest pains could occur, and should be treated before worsening.

Rubber Dust: Rubber dust is the accumulation of used, worn down rubber and is most commonly associated with tires.  Though rubber may come off in dramatic plumes during a skid or as fragment due to difficult driving conditions, it is worn regularly in the normal compression and expansion of tires.  This causes shavings of rubber to form a dust, the organic chemicals of which are extraordinarily toxic, proven to damage human DNA.  Latex (a component of rubber dust) in particular is most commonly associated with allergies and asthma.

Plastic/Fiberglass Dust:  Fiberglass, or glass wool, is composed of filaments of glass that are combined with yarn and woven into a fabric.  Though insufficient evidence exists, many believe that when worn down and made into an airborne dust, fiberglass can cause respiratory disease.  As a precautionary measure, it is strongly suggested to wear a mask when working with fiberglass or other manufactured plastics.

Metal Dust: Metal dust is typically formed by grinding metal during the process of drilling. Workers exposed to metal dust can experience irritation in the lungs and throat. Certain types of metal dust can be extremely toxic, particularly if the metal is comprised of heavy metals like cobalt, lead, or nickel. It is important to wear some type of respirator when working with metal to prevent harm to lungs.

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