[2023 Updated]

Working with fine powders can literally mean a lot of dust up your nose. Do you sometimes feel this problem is getting out of hand?

Dust in the air usually means workers need to wear dust masks, which can cause discomfort and dissatisfaction. The number of worker complaints starts to rise and can even lead to a general strike, if the dust problem gets too bad.

There is also the more sinister threat of silicosis. This is a disease of the lungs that can result from lengthy exposure to breathing fine silica dust. Although a water-washed kaolin contains virtually no free silica, many other fillers do contain some free silica as an impurity, which workers could be inhaling when conditions are very dusty. The worst-case scenario for managers is the nasty threat of lawsuits if the situation degenerates. What can we do about dust, then?

Extraction systems

A first option could be to remove the dust in the air by installing a dust extraction system. Some capital expenditure is involved in this option.

Enclosed vessels

Secondly, one can handle all dusty raw materials in fully enclosed systems. Although capital expenditure is required, the results are usually worth it. For example, an open conveyor belt could be replaced by a closed tube conveyor, like this one:

Negative pressure

The trouble with fine dusty powders is that as soon as they fall any vertical distance, a fine cloud of dust is usually the result. So even if you have an enclosed vessel, the dust still escapes into the outside air. One way to get around this problem is to create a slight negative pressure in the vessel so that the outside air is slowly being drawn into the vessel, preventing any dust escaping out of it.

Fillers in PELLET form

Some enterprising filler producers can supply their powdered products in pellet or prill form. These are significantly less dusty to handle.

If none of those are an option, then I guess it’s back to the trusty dust mask! I hope this was helpful, and I wish you less dust up your nose in future.

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