Dust pollutants

Have a look at these articles about various dust pollutants.

Dust pollution and particle pollution affect health

Pollution caused by dust and particles, poses grave danger to children, older people and people with respiratory illnesses.

What is atmospheric pollution?

Dust in homes and offices consists of plant pollen, human and animal hairs, textile fibers, paper fibers, minerals from outdoor soil, human skin cells, burnt particles and many other materials.
Dust kicked up by vehicles moving on roads make upto 33% air pollution.
Dust and pollution particles mix in the atmosphere and can travel for days across continents and countries before settling on the ground surface.

NASA and University scientists have made the first estimate of the amount and composition of tiny airborne particles that arrive in the air over North America each year. According to their estimates, 64 million tons of dust, pollution and other particles travel across countries to arrive over North America every year. This is nearly as much as the estimated 69 million tons of aerosols produced domestically from natural processes, transportation and industrial sources.

Risks from dust pollution

People with heart or lung diseases and other chronic diseases are at increased risk from dust and particle pollution. Pollution can aggravate the disease. Studies have shown that when particle levels are high, older adults with undiagnosed disease are likely to be hospitalized because of aggravated diseases. An example is the recent happenings in China. Increased levels of air pollution is affecting thousands of residents. People cannot move about without wearing face masks. Many are checking into hospitals because of breathing problems and a few deaths have been reported too. Dust pollution is posing a health threat to more than 100,000 residents in Wuhan, Hubei Province, a problem that experts say could result in many more cases of lung problems in the area.

Preventing dust pollution?

Governments and environmental agencies can take steps to prevent spread of dust locally. US environmental agency makes it obligatory on persons or agencies to minimise or mitigate production of dust. New residential housing areas are the known source for spread of dust. Construction companies can control dust emissions through simple measures like spraying construction and demolition sites with water.
Dust kicked up by vehicles travelling on road make upto 33% air pollution. Road dust may be suppressed using sweeping vehicles or water sprayers.

Avoid unhealthy exposures

People suffering chronic diseases, older aged people and children should reduce their exposure to polluting atmosphere. Watch out for the air quality index and plan your outdoor activities for days when the dust and particle levels are low. Reduce particle levels indoors by not smoking inside, and by reducing use of other particle sources such as candles, wood-burning stoves, and fire places.

Make it a point to clean indoors regularly. Using vacuum cleaners will make the job of cleaning easy.

Read more at  The Household Academy

Health effects of dust

What is dust?

Dust is a common air pollutant generated by many different sources and activities.

Terms explained

Pollutant – a substance that has been introduced to the environment and has undesired or negative effects.

Particles – tiny solid and liquid substances that can float in the air. Many particles are invisible.

Where does dust come from?

The natural erosion of soil, sand and rock is the most common source of dust.

Pollen, microscopic organisms, plant material and dander (dead skin cells shed by animals) are also part of the dust in the environment.

Man-made dust is common in urban areas. It is created by a range of activities from personal hobbies, such as gardening, to large scale industrial activities, such as electricity generation at power stations.

Dust particles

Dust particles vary in size from visible to invisible. The smaller the particle, the longer it stays in the air and the further it can travel.

Large dust particles fall out of the air relatively close to where they are created. These particles form the dust layers you can see on things like furniture and motor vehicles.

Large dust particles tend to be trapped in the nose and mouth when you breathe them in and can be readily breathed out or swallowed harmlessly.

Smaller or fine dust particles are invisible. Fine dust particles are more likely to penetrate deeply into the lungs while ultrafine particles can be absorbed directly into the blood stream.

How does dust affect your health?

The type and size of a dust particle determines how toxic the dust is. However the possible harm the dust may cause to your health is mostly determined by the amount of dust present in the air and how long you have been exposed to it.

Dust particles small enough to be inhaled may cause:

  • irritation of the eyes
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • hayfever
  • asthma attacks.

For people with respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive airways disease (COAD) or emphysema even small increases in dust concentration can make their symptoms worse.

Currently there is no hard evidence that dust causes asthma, however breathing in high concentrations of dust over many years is thought to reduce lung function in the long term and contribute to disorders like chronic bronchitis and heart and lung disorders.

Industrial emissions may occasionally result in excessive dust in nearby communities. These may be harmful to health if poorly controlled.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who is exposed to high levels of dust may be affected – the longer you breathe in the dust, then the greater the chance that it will affect your health.

Breathing low levels of household or urban dust does not cause health problems in most individuals.

In contrast, people with existing respiratory and heart conditions, including smokers, are at greater risk of developing long-term health problems.

Babies, young children and elderly people are also more likely to develop health problems from long term exposure to high levels of dust.

Anyone who regularly experiences shortness of breath or hayfever type symptoms from breathing dust should discuss these symptoms with their doctor.

What can be done?

Australia controls dust levels in the air where people live through a range of measures. Australian air quality standards for dust are more rigorous than those in the USA, UK and Europe.

National standards

The National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) for Particulate Matter (PM) is the standard for dust concentration in cities and towns.

The Department of Environment Regulation (DER) monitors and enforces this standard. The DER monitors air quality, including dust, across the Perth metropolitan and major rural areas. The DER investigates all incidents where the standards are exceeded.

Industry licences

The DER licences all industry and activities that emit pollutants into the environment. Either the DER or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can impose conditions on a company that restrict the amount of dust particles that their activities can emit into the air. Companies must monitor their emissions and routinely report the information back to DER.

Other measures

Other dust control measures include vegetation buffers (areas of plants and trees) that are often positioned between residential areas and industrial areas and between residential areas and major roads.

These buffers help to dissipate dust and other pollutants and together with air quality standards are highly effective for reducing dust impacts on communities.

Who can I call?

Your GP

If you have a medical complaint you believe is related to dust, see your GP. Your GP should contact the health department if your medical complaint is related to environmental pollution.

Your local council

Neighbourhood concerns should be raised with your local council. Most councils employ environmental health officers who can investigate local neighbourhood matters.

Thanks to Dept of Health Australia

I hope you enjoyed these articles!

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