Hazards of Industrial Dust to the Respiratory System – Cnstrongmask

Hazards of Industrial Dust to the Respiratory System

by Edward Wu on September 25, 2023

What is Industrial Dust?

Dust is a type of solid particle that can remain suspended in the air for extended periods. It can lead to various diseases such as respiratory disorders, skin infections, and even cancer, significantly impacting human health. The emitted dust also affects the environment outside the pollution zone, posing health risks to residents around industrial areas. However, occupational pneumoconiosis is primarily associated with dusty work environments, where workers inhale large amounts of dust over a prolonged period, leading to disease. Therefore, in order to ensure the health of workers and prevent pneumoconiosis, it is essential to have a detailed understanding of dust, and subsequently implement protective measures to safeguard the health of specialized workers.


Sources of Industrial Dust

Industrial dust originates from a wide range of sources, virtually every industrial production process can generate dust. This includes activities such as drilling, blasting, and handling in mining and tunneling operations, as well as processes like crushing, grinding, and packaging of ores (see Figure 2-2). The machinery industry also produces dust through processes like casting, sanding, and sand cleaning. Industries like glass and refractories, as well as those involved in processing leather, cotton, tobacco, and plastics, also generate significant amounts of industrial dust. Therefore, the formation of industrial dust can be broadly categorized into three main types: solid particles formed through mechanical impact, grinding, or rolling of solid materials; particles suspended in the air due to airflow dispersion; vapors produced during material heating, which condense or oxidize in the air; and smoke resulting from incomplete combustion of organic substances.


Hazards of Industrial Dust to the Respiratory System

Productive dust not only pollutes the environment but also poses a serious threat to the health of workers. The degree of harm caused by dust to the human body depends on factors such as the amount of dust inhaled, the route of entry, the deposition site within the respiratory system, and the physical and chemical properties of the dust. The primary routes of dust entry into the body include the respiratory system, eyes, and skin, with the respiratory system being the major pathway. Depending on their characteristics, dust can cause different types of damage to the body. When inhaled, productive dust can irritate the respiratory tract, leading to conditions like rhinitis, pharyngitis, and bronchitis. In severe cases, this can progress to pneumoconiosis. If dust enters the eyes, it can cause symptoms like conjunctivitis, corneal opacity, eye and facial swelling, and acute keratitis. Toxic soluble dust that enters the respiratory system is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing poisoning. Radioactive dust can result in radiation damage. Dust that clogs sebaceous glands and mechanically irritates the skin can lead to conditions like acne, folliculitis, pyoderma, and skin fissures. Dust that enters the external auditory canal and mixes with sebum can form earwax.


Among various types of dust, asbestos dust and free silica dust pose the most serious threats to human health. Asbestos dust can cause not only asbestosis but also has carcinogenic properties. Quarries, mines, road construction, and tunneling operations generate large amounts of free silica dust, which, when inhaled over the long term, can lead to silicosis. Silicosis is one of the most severe occupational diseases, typically presenting symptoms like shortness of breath, chest tightness, chest pain, coughing, and sputum production. It can ultimately lead to respiratory failure and death. Toxic metal dust and non-metal dust (chromium, manganese, cobalt, lead, mercury, arsenic, etc.) can cause poisoning or even fatal outcomes after entering the body. Inhaling chromium dust can cause ulcers and perforation of the nasal septum, and increase the incidence of lung cancer. Inhaling manganese dust can lead to toxic pneumonitis, while inhaling cobalt dust can cause emphysema and osteomalacia, among other effects.


Non-toxic dust also poses significant risks to human health. If a certain amount of dust is inhaled over an extended period, it can gradually accumulate in the lungs, leading to progressive, diffuse fibrous tissue growth. This can result in respiratory functional disorders, a condition known as pneumoconiosis. Inhaling a certain amount of silica dust can cause lung tissue hardening, resulting in silicosis.


In addition, when industrial fine dust reaches a certain concentration in the atmosphere, it can lead to reduced visibility, haze, and toxic fine particles, causing environmental pollution issues. Particularly, PM2.5 ultrafine particles, due to their large surface area, high surface activity, and ability to accumulate toxic substances, can drift in the atmosphere for extended periods and over long distances, thereby exerting