- The presence of combustible dust in the air creates an unnecessary risk that can devastate an operation.
- Good indoor air cleaning also prevents buildup of nuisance dust on process equipment, electrical control panels and circuit boards, inspection equipment, and paperwork.
Plant explosions are unpredictable and usually deadly. The presence of combustible dust in the air creates an unnecessary risk that can devastate an operation. In fact, dust of any kind can have a huge impact on an industrial plant, with consequences that are as expensive as they are preventable.
Being suspended in an aerosol can make innocuous materials amazingly hazardous. Something that is mildly flammable can, by virtue of the intimate relationship between dust suspended in the air and the oxygen that is present, become an explosive mixture. Similarly, when breathed as an aerosol, the chemical attributes of some substances can become suddenly very aggressive. Lead or other toxic metals can enter the circulatory system very efficiently. Materials that ordinarily stay put suddenly move about on the mildest breeze and create hazards for equipment and people in areas that may be quite distant from the source of the contamination.
“Dust impacts people, who are forced to breathe unhealthy air,” says Charles Dix, engineer and co-owner, Carolina Hydro Technologies (www.carolina-hydro.com) in Providence, North Carolina. “Also, dust collects in motors, and a lot of electrical cabinets are not airtight. It can have an effect on product quality and the general housekeeping quality of a plant.”
Airborne contaminants occur in gaseous form or as aerosols, explains Ivan D. Ivanov, MD, PhD , team leader, occupational health, Department of Public Health and Environment, World Health Organization (WHO, www.who.int) in Geneva, Switzerland. “In scientific terminology, an aerosol is defined as a system of particles suspended in a gaseous medium, usually air, in the context of occupational hygiene,” he says. “Aerosols may exist in the form of airborne dusts, sprays, mists, smokes and fumes. In the occupational setting, all these forms may be important because they relate to a wide range of occupational diseases. Airborne dusts are of particular concern because they are well known to be associated with classical widespread occupational lung diseases, as well as with systemic intoxications such as lead poisoning, especially at higher levels of exposure.” Interest also is on the increase in other dust-related diseases, such as cancer, asthma, allergic alveolitis, and irritation, as well as a whole range of non-respiratory illnesses, which may occur at much lower exposure levels.