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Understanding the Consequences of Harmful Dust

Although dust is common everywhere, high concentrations of dust can lead to health problems of many types. However, if you are armed with the right knowledge, you can reduce your exposure and maintain a healthy respiratory system.

Understanding the Health Effects of Dust

While dust is all around us and generally does not cause many problems beyond a dirty coffee table, with high home dust levels or prolonged exposure to dust, it can be harmful. It can also be more of a danger to people who are at a higher risk due to respiratory conditions, such as those with COPD or asthma.

The severity of health issues will be most affected by the type of dust present. Dust from pet dander, for example, won't cause the same reactions as dust from concrete or rock.

However, dust particles that are large enough to be inhaled can cause health problems such as eye irritation, coughing, sneezing, and hay fever. It can even trigger asthma attacks, making dust a serious concern to anyone who suffers from this condition.

If you have allergies to a specific type of dust (such as pet dander), you can experience a wide range of issues. Some people, for example, may develop an allergy to dust mites. In this case, symptoms can include itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, and a runny nose.

Asthma is also a concern if dust is present. When dust is inhaled, it can trigger a tightening of the muscles, interior swelling, and the release of mucus, all of which will make an allergy attack likely.

Regardless of pre-existing health conditions, there is also a concern that dust in the home could be toxic. Many of the most common products in our home, such as carpet and air fresheners, could contain harmful air pollution that creates dangerous indoor air.

Harmful Types of Dust

Household Dust

Typically, household dust is made of many different particles. It can be a combination of pet dander, skin cells, and pollen, but it's usually made mostly of dirt that has floated inside the home. Household dust is usually less harmful when it's not in large concentrations. It can, however, be toxic in certain situations. Because it is so common, household dust can be troublesome to our health, especially in heavy concentrations.

Dust in the home, however, is not the only concern. If you are exposed to dust while on the job, the consequences can be even more severe...

Concrete Dust

The production and pouring of concrete can create dust that will become airborne and could be potentially toxic. Silica dust, which is given off by concrete, can cause many health issues, including silicosis, a particularly harmful disease that causes breathing issues. Besides concrete and cement, many construction materials contain silica (Crystalline Silica) such as asphalt, brick, drywall, grout and tile. Silica dust is made from fine particles and breathing them can lead to a scarring or swelling inside the lungs. It can even cause lung cancer.

Dust Storms

If you live in a dry region such as the US Southwest you have likely been exposed to the adverse health effects caused by dust storms. We see this occurring particularly in places like Phoenix where strong winds blow fine particulate matter and debris high into the air.

A dust storm can be massive at up to 100 miles wide and can move up to 50 miles. Once the winds calm, the larger dust particles tend to fall to the ground relatively fast whereas the fine particles can float for days. It's the fine particles that are of greatest concern for your health as they are most likely to be breathed into your respiratory tract.

Wood Dust

While many people love the smell of cut wood, the sawdust that results from woodworking can become airborne and could be inhaled. Wood dust can not only cause allergic reactions, it can also cause problems with the interior of someone's mouth.

Plastic and Fiberglass Dust

Fiberglass is made from small filaments of glass that are combined with yarn and woven into a fabric. This durable and versatile material has been used for countless products, including home insulation, boat hulls, and medical technology. Exposure to dust shed by fiberglass is particularly dangerous, so anyone working with fiberglass insulation or fiberglass manufacturing should wear some type of respiratory and eye protection.

Metal Dust

Metal is hard and heavy, so you likely don't think of it as a particle that can be released into the air. However, when dust is processed through industrial grinding and other procedures, it can be divided into particles that are small enough to float in the air. Anyone exposed to metal dust can have painful irritation in the lungs and throat and could even be exposed to toxic chemicals. If the metal is toxic (cobalt, lead, or nickel, for example), it can cause significant health problems in addition to the irritation caused by metal dust in general.

Lead Dust

Even though lead paint isn't used in homes or buildings anymore there are still many older buildings that have lead paint. Lead paint, and the lead dust that is created when the paint deteriorates, is extremely dangerous and can cause lead poisoning symptoms like joint pain and headaches in adults and developmental delays in children. The EPA is recommending that all older buildings need to safely remove any and all lead paint. 

Controlling Dust in Your House

If you are ready to control the dust in your house, you can use these effective tips to create a cleaner, healthier home for your family.

Change Your HVAC Filters and Clean the Ductwork

The heating and air conditioning in your system can become a collection point for dust and other airborne particles, so you need to make sure you clean the system regularly to reduce household dust. In most cases, you should change your HVAC filters about every three months, although more changes may be needed during the summer and winter, when the system is running more often. You can also have a professional technician clean your air ducts so collected dust is removed and not released back into the home.

Reduce Clutter

We all understand the importance of cleaning to reduce dust in the home, but we often find dust hiding in the little nooks and crannies, such as behind books or on table decorations. To make cleaning more effective, which will reduce dust in the home, do your best to reduce clutter.

Keep Closets Neat and Tidy

Closets that hold clothes, bedding, and towels can become reservoirs of dust, largely because these materials will shed fibers. However, you can keep the dust in check by storing items in boxes and bags, which will keep invisible dust from flying into the living space. If you have any clothes that you rarely wear, keep them in containers or bags.

Use an Air Purifier

Whether you are seriously concerned about inhalable dust in the home or simply want to maintain a clean household, an air purifier can help trap dust particles so you have healthy air all year. By using high efficiency air filters and strong motors, air purifiers trap a wide range of the smallest airborne particles. Keeping an air purifier in children's bedrooms, living rooms, the home office, and other locations will help prevent some of the worst symptoms of dust exposure from both indoor and outdoor sources of particulate matter.

Controlling Dust at Work

Earlier, we discussed some of the most harmful types of dust. You may have noticed that most types were typically from industrial sources, such as concrete and metal dust. While you can certainly be exposed to fiberglass dust at home, it's much more likely that this will be a concern if you work with the material.

The World Health Organization provides many suggestions for keeping industrial dust exposure to a minimum. One of their top recommendations is elimination of the dust at the source. This essentially means vacuuming the dust directly where it is produced. A saw attachment that captures wood dust as the machine operates is an example. They also recommend wet methods for trapping dust, which uses water at the point of production to create a pulp that is easier to contain than airborne particles.

Personal protection equipment is also essential in dust collection. Masks, safety glasses, gloves, and even earmuffs can be used to keep workers from harmful dust exposure.

At the job site or in the factory, proper ventilation is crucial. Ventilation helps circulate the dust particles, reducing the chances of harmful concentrations. There are also industrial air purifiers that can trap particles before they become a hazard to workers from respirable crystalline silica. That is, the breathing in of fine dust particles that are hazardous to your health.

World-Class Purifiers Backed by Friendly Service

If you are interested in air purifiers for dust, contact Oransi today. We'll help you make an informed decision on your air purification needs.

We strive to create healthier air at home at at work, so browse our full selection of purifiers today to minimize your health effects from dust!