3 Methods for Reducing Silica Dust
Working in the stone industry means working in areas where there is a high level of dust in the environment. Many tasks in the stone industry generate dust. And not all dust is the same. The particles that make up dust in the air contain a variety of substances. One substance that can be especially harmful is respirable crystalline silica. In the article we will talk about 3 methods for reducing silica dust. We will also see why it is important to do so and how shop dust is related to the topic. Let’s get into our consideration of how to reduce silica dust in three ways.
Why Silica Dust Reduction is Important
One of the first questions that may come to mind is, “why is silica dust reduction important”? That is a good question to ask. The answer to that question reveals the potential consequences.
Respirable crystalline silica dust has been linked to silicosis; a serious occupational health issue. This health issue has four types. These types are:
- Accelerated Silicosis – This type of silicosis develops 5-10 years after high levels of exposure to silica dust. It is marked by various symptoms including severe shortness of breath, weakness, and weight loss.
- Acute Silicosis – Develops between a few months and 2 years after exposure to very high concentrations of silica dust. This type causes causes disabling shortness of breath, weight loss, weakness, and can additionally lead to death.
- Asymptomatic Silicosis – This type of the disease is at the early stages and does not present any symptoms.
- Chronic Silicosis – This type can arrive after 20 years of being exposed to crystalline silica.
As you can see from the list above, silicosis develops in a variety of ways and depending on the type of silicosis a person has, he or she can suffer a range of symptoms. And in the case of asymptomatic silicosis, the person may not even realize they have the disease.
Why Reducing Shop Dust is Beneficial
Since this disease varies so much and can be debilitating in certain cases, it is good to know what can be done about the issue. This harmful dust is abundant in fabrication shops and is not curable. However, the prevention of silicosis is a reality. Since the harmful substance is breathed in via dust particles floating in the air in environments where stone is being worked, one of which is the fabrication shop, reducing the amount of shop dust is logically an effective way to prevention. After all, if you reduce the amount of dust, then you reduce the amount of crystalline silica that is in the dust.
Wet Cutting During Stone Fabrication
Now that we have established why it is important to know about silica dust and how reducing the overall amount of dust in the shop is beneficial, let’s begin looking at three methods for reducing silica dust.
The first way of reducing silica dust is by wet cutting during the fabrication process. In fact, circulating water through the various work stations in the facility and making use of a water treatment plants and/or water recycling processes effectively reduces the amount of particulates. Wet cutting reduces the amount of dust in the air since the particles are wet at the time they are removed from the stone.
Removing the Particles from Water
After capturing the potentially harmful particles and containing them using water, there should be a procedure for separating them from the water and then safely disposing of them in the proper manner. Having a complete dust control and management process is important. Because even after the particles get captured, they could become airborne again. If they are allowed to dry out, this would defeat the purpose of filtering them out.
Dry Dust Booths & Air Filtration
A second way of decreasing the amount of silica dust is by installing dry dust booths near work stations. These dust booths, also called dry dust cabins work by created a strong draft that draws the dust generated by the work station into the unit. As the dust is circulated through the machine, it is filtered from the air and retained in a holding container. The filtered air is moved back out into workspace this cycle of filtering the air reduces the dust and thus, also the crystalline silica that is in that dust.
Water Wall Air Filtration
The third and last way of reducing silica dust in a fabrication shop environment is similar to both of the aforementioned methods. It makes use of water acting as a filter. These units are called wet dust collectors, or water walls, and they are similar to the dry dust booths in that they have a mechanism that draws air into the machine. Thus, they too create draft that pulls the dust particles into a filter. However, the filter in a water wall dust collector is a steady flowing sheet of water. As the dust is drawn in, it is captured by the water. The unit carries it into a tank where the particles settle to the bottom. Meanwhile, the water is pumped back up to the top. Then, it again flows downward to capture more of the dust.
As we have seen in this article discussing 3 methods for reducing silica dust in the fabrication shop, silicosis is a real danger. Additionally, it develops in a variety of types. While there is no cure for the disease, it is preventable through practices. These include the control and management of dust particles. By removing the dust from the air, it never gets breathed in and the more dust you can remove from the air, the safer the work environment is.
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