Nearly everyone has heard of asbestosis and silicosis, but they remain unaware of the numerous other illnesses caused by dust.
Dust is composed of a vast range of substances and chemicals. Consequently, the hazards it poses are numerous and varied. In some cases it scars the lungs; in others the damage can be caused by chemical toxins or bacteria and viruses. Almost any foreign substance can trigger auto-immune diseases and allergies. A World Health Organization paper on the subject can be found here: http://www.who.int/occupational_health/publications/airdust/en/.
Silicosis from grit and coal dust doesn’t only affect miners but also communities that live far downwind of mines and quarries. These common environmental dusts also increase the incidence of chronic bronchitis, asthma, heart disease, tuberculosis, pneumonia, lung (and other) cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever, lupus, sclerosis and cardio-pulmonary disease.
Metalworking and welding imbue dust with harmful metallic residues, iron causes pulmonary siderosis, tin and barium cause stannosis and baritosis, while beryllium (from the electrical industry) causes an immune reaction called berylliosis.
Nearly every occupation has a dust-related disease named after it: hay, straw and grain can cause “farmer’s lung”; feathers and bird droppings cause “bird fancier’s lung”; compost dust can result in “mushroom worker’s lung”; moulds cause “cheese washer’s lung”; and the dust from heat-treated sludge can cause “sewage sludge disease”.
Far from mines and factories, ordinary windblown dust may be carrying traces of animal droppings, viruses, or bacteria. Dust has been linked to contagious diseases like histoplasmosis, psittacosis, Q Fever, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, haemorrhagic fever, renal syndrome, leptospirosis, tularemia, salmonellosis and meningitis.
Pesticides and other chemicals can bypass the lungs by dissolving into the bloodstream or are swallowed and affect the digestive tract and other internal organs like the brain, kidneys, or pancreas.
How to Protect People from Dust
An indispensible precaution in any commercial or industrial building is a galvanised steel spiral duct extraction system, and galvanised steel spiral duct from Dustspares provides a very economical solution that is also easy to install.
In industrial settings, a galvanised steel spiral duct system can be combined with several other solutions, including enclosure of dust-producing processes by negative air pressure.
Other important precautions include regular vacuuming, wetting down dusty floors and surfaces, efficient storage and transport of materials and properly controlled disposal of waste.