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Concrete Dust

It may not be something that you think about all the time. But dust from concrete can be in your work environment if you work on a construction site. Furthermore, concrete dust is a potentially harmful breathable substance. In this article, we will take a look at some products that are made from concrete, explore why concrete dust can be hazardous, and examine what can be done about concrete dust to prevent the associated hazards.

Where Concrete Is Found

One of the most common places that concrete is found is on the construction site. It is one of the harmful construction dusts that we talk about on this website. Concrete dust turns up on construction sites in various forms and it may not be readily visible. Some dust from concrete is generated from working on parts of the project that are made with concrete. Some of these include:

  • Concrete Foundations
  • Driveways of Concrete
  • Sidewalks
  • Patios
  • Porches
  • Steps
  • Floors

Performing certain tasks on these materials generates concrete dust. For example, using a hammer drill on a concrete foundation to cut holes for plumbing is one operation that would generate dust. There are several tasks that produce concrete dust. The following list shows some tasks that, when performed on concrete generate dust from the material.

  • Cutting
  • Drilling
  • Grinding
  • Chipping
  • Jack Hammering
  • Polishing
  • Scarifying
  • Sanding

You may be thinking, "That only makes sense. But what difference does it make? Dust is generated when performing those tasks on all sorts of materials." That is true, removing material from any mass of matter that is hard will produce at least some dust. But not materials are the same. Each material is composed of different substances. And it just so happens that the components of concrete include substances that can be harmful if breathed in. But what are the dangers of breathing concrete dust?

Potential Hazards of Concrete Dust

As we have been considering, concrete dust brings with it some potential health risks. How so? Breathing concrete dust has the potential of causing a number of respiratory ailments. In fact, OSHA has created guidelines for working with various materials that have the potential of generating harmful dust and one such material is concrete. Breathing concrete dust cause lead to the following health problems:

  • Scarring of Lungs
  • Lung Disease
  • Lung Cancer
  • COPD

As you can see from the list above, there are a few serious health problems that are related to inhaling concrete dust. So it is wise to be educated about not only how the dust is generated, but also the reasons for these hazards. In short, the materials in concrete contribute to these potentially harmful diseases. Let's look at what is in concrete to get a better idea of the reasons for the health hazards about which we are speaking.

What's In Concrete Dust

Concrete is composed of a variety of ingredients. And the ingredients may vary in quantity and mix. The basic ingredients of concrete include:

  • Portland Cement
  • Water
  • Sand
  • Gravel/Stone

The ingredient list above is important to our discussion. Why? Because concrete's composition is directly related to the particles that are in the concrete dust that is generated. Let's look at some of the details now.

Concrete Contains Silica

One of the biggest reasons that concrete dust is potentially dangerous is that it contains silica. More than one of the ingredients in concrete may be made of silica. But sand is normally high in silica content. Therefore, concrete contains silica. And when the concrete is worked on by drilling, cutting, grinding, etc., the dust that is created contains silica. It is this substance that is harmful to the lungs of those that breathe it. In fact, respirable crystalline silica is the ingredient to which the hazards mentioned above are associated.

Since silica in the dust of concrete can cause harmful effects, controlling the generation of dust is key. Because of this, professionals make use of various methods for controlling concrete dust. We'll close our consideration of concrete dust by looking at some of them now.

Controlling Concrete Dust

As we have been discussing, it is important to control concrete dust. And there are a number of methods used for controlling it. The idea is to keep the concrete particles out of the air that is breathed by workers and anyone else in the area.

One way of keeping concrete dust levels down is by using water. Wet cutting is a practice that is used by professionals. It can be executed in more than one way. One way of wet cutting is by using equipment that is rigged with a sprayer for dousing the cut in water as the blade removes material. However, the blade may be manually sprayed with water as well. performing cuts on a stone that is wet prevents dust particles from becoming airborne. However, after the water evaporates the potential for dust particles to be stirred up exists.

Another technique that is used is concrete dust collection systems. These systems are designed to draw air into the machine and filter the dust particles out. They then either return the cleaned air back into the workspace or send it out of the work environment. The kinds of dust collection systems available vary depending on what kind of concrete work you are doing and the kinds of equipment you use to work the concrete.

Finally, PPE is also used to control concrete dust. This method makes use of gear that can be worn by the concrete worker which prevents the dust from being inhaled by filtering it from the air that is breathed. Respirators are one piece of PPE.

As we have seen in this article, concrete dust can be harmful because it contains silica in crystalline form. This substance causes a number of health issues related to the respiratory system. Additionally, controlling concrete dust in the work environment can be done in a variety of ways. We mentioned a few of the dust control methods that can be used and if applied, the mentioned techniques can help you maintain a safe work environment.

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