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The Dangers of Occupational Dust Exposure

Toxic dust is a problem for many different workers in multiple different fields of employment. As hazardous materials are inhaled in the form of dust, the lungs can receive both short- and long-term damage. In some industries, daily exposure to fumes or dust inevitably leads to respiratory problems and severe issues surrounding the lungs. Even basic tasks in several industries can expose workers to toxic substances.

Because of the dangers of dust inhalation, it’s crucial for workers to understand where it might come from in their occupation. While employers are supposed to educate and protect their workers from dust, not all do and many employees are surprised to learn that they’re exposed to occupational dust hazards.

Types of toxic dust include:

  • Metallic Dust: Tiny pieces of lead, cadmium, aluminum, and other metals are released into the air when these materials are manipulated, and they can slowly poison workers who inhale them. Additionally, this dust can be highly flammable when exposed to an open flame.
  • Mineral Dust: During the extraction of coal and other minerals, chemicals such as silica can be inhaled, leading to a range of occupational diseases.
  • Molds and Spores: Molds and spores are particularly dangerous because they can develop in unexpected spaces—leaving unprepared workers in a dangerous situation. 
  • Chemical Dust: Pesticides, solvents, and even paint can cause lasting harm to the lungs.
  • Vegetable Dust: This may not sound threatening, but long-term exposure to dust from handling wheat, flour, wood, cotton, tea, grains, and other organic items can cause permanent harm. Dust accumulated during sugar processing has been known to be extremely combustible and has been involved in tragic workplace incidents.

Common Industries With Dust Exposure

While dust might be an unexpected development at some work sites, it’s an unavoidable and expected byproduct of the activity at others. This makes workers in certain industries more at risk for dangerous dust exposure.

Mining Dust Exposure

As mentioned above, workers in the mining industry face dust exposure during multiple steps of their job. Miners face the risk of encountering dangerous dust as they extract materials from the earth. Additionally, they face hazards as products are broken down and processed at facilities outside of the mine.

Forestry Dust Exposure

When wood is processed, it creates a lot of dust. Forestry activities that produce wood dust include sawing, sanding, and routing. Additionally, workers who maintain equipment used for logging and other forestry activity face the risk of dust exposure.

Forestry dust exposure also has another risk that many might not realize: explosion. If wood dust is not carefully managed, even the slightest spark can trigger a massive explosion. Wood dust explosions occur as dust particles are in the air and rapidly ignite in sequence. The result is an explosion that isn’t much different in appearance than one triggered by gas.

Agricultural Dust Exposure

Processing grains and other types of fibers and create dangerous dust for workers. When grains are ground down, they can give off dust. Additionally, they can emit dangerous gases, molds, and chemical fumigants caused by decaying and fermenting organic materials.

Preventing Dust Exposure at Work Sites

Preventing toxic dust from forming is often more effective than treating the conditions that arise after workers are exposed, both in cost and disease prevention. Designing a workplace with toxic exposure in mind can greatly decrease the risk to workers.

Other important safety precautions include adequate ventilation and wearing proper equipment such as respirators. It is important to ensure that toxic dust does not accumulate in the workplace and that all are subject to the accumulation of such toxic dust be cleaned prior to any maintenance.

Occupational diseases caused by toxic dust exposure include:

  • Pneumoconiosis
  • Scarred lung tissue
  • Asbestosis
  • Silicosis
  • Farmer's lung
  • Humidifier fever
  • Mesothelioma

Are Employers Required to Protect Workers From Dust?

Yes, employers have a duty to assess any toxic dust that workers are exposed to and take all available precautions to prevent lung damage. If you suspect that you and your coworkers were injured as a result of being exposed to dangerous workplace toxins, you may have grounds to file a legal claim.

Arnold & Itkin’s work injury lawyers have helped workers in a range of industries, such as construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and other fields seek compensation for respiratory damages caused by negligent employer practices. Too often, we see workers suffer the most because companies failed to do the right thing and protect them. That’s why we fight to secure justice, get answers, and help unfairly injured clients get the compensation that they need to move forward after dust-related injuries.

Call our dust exposure lawyers at (888) 493-1629 for a free consultation. We’re standing by to listen to your story and explain your options. Importantly, you’ll only pay us if we get results.

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