Tag Archives: dust

Hitching a Ride on Dust

Dust is not just made up of non-living elements – tiny microbes are catching a ride on dust particles and they are travelling the world!

Please click the links provided to read the full articles.

Hitching a Ride on Dust

Up in the Air: The Emerging Science of Dust and Sandstorm Microbes

Oxford Academic – GBE

Casey McGrath

On October 13, 2017, a sandstorm blew off the west coast of Africa, creating a plume of dust that stretched thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean and reached the Caribbean five days later. Each year, up to five billion tons of dust is ejected into the earth’s atmosphere, mostly from large deserts like the Sahara in Africa and the Gobi in Asia. Such dust plumes affect all regions of the planet, with some individual plumes even circling the globe.

In an expanding field of environmental microbiology, researchers have begun investigating the microscopic travelers that hitch rides on these dust plumes and transit the globe. Because of their origins in harsh desert climates, these bacteria, archaea, microbial eukaryotes (including fungi), and viruses may be especially good at surviving extreme conditions and adapting to new environments. As researchers in this emerging field, Hayedeh Behzad, Katsuhiko Mineta, and Takashi Gojobori of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia provide an overview of current knowledge and highlight the potential impacts on human and ecosystem health in a new review in Genome Biology and Evolution, “Global Ramifications of Dust and Sandstorm Microbiota” (Behzad et al. 2018). One thing that is clear is that, for a field of study still in its infancy, its potential ramifications are massive.

Behzad and colleagues detail several studies that indicate that dust and sandstorms may enable the spread of disease-causing microbes. For example, the fungal agents that cause valley fever can be found in desert soils, and epidemics in the southern United States appear to be correlated with the intensification of sandstorms (Tong et al. 2017). Perhaps more surprisingly, increased incidence of Kawasaki disease, a serious heart condition, in Japanese and U.S. children may be associated with a fungus found in winds originating from China (Rodo et al. 2014). Cases of measles (Ma et al. 2017), pulmonary tuberculosis (Wang et al. 2016), and influenza (Chen et al. 2010) may also be linked to the occurrence of dust and sandstorms. Finally, in a study suggesting just how far-reaching this phenomenon may be, several genetic sequences potentially belonging to meningitis pathogens were found in Saharan dust deposits within snow packs in the Swiss Alps (Meola et al. 2015).

As further detailed in the review by Behzad and colleagues, dust and sandstorm-derived microorganisms also have the potential to significantly affect the ecosystems to which these microbes are transported. Deposits of such microbes could impact the ecosystem services provided by microbial communities, affecting nutrient cycling and food chains. Notably, Saharan-derived dust samples in the Caribbean were found to contain Aspergillus sydowii, a fungus that infects corals and may be partially responsible for the declining health of the Caribbean coral reef (Garrison et al. 2003). In addition, pathogens carried by sandstorms may infect agricultural crops, with major implications for the global economy.

Teruya Maki at Kanazawa University in Japan, author of several studies on sandstorm-derived microbes, agrees with Behzad, Mineta, and Gojobori regarding the potential risks of these organisms: “Although the microbial communities associated with dust events are mainly composed of nonharmful populations…there is the possibility of pandemics [caused by] the spread of pathogens after the deposition of dust particles.” Maki, who discovered a link between Japanese outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and Chinese sandstorms (Maki et al. 2012), believes the review by Behzad et al. provides important information regarding the potential risks of such microbes to the general public. However, Maki also points out that among dust and sandstorm microbes, there may be species that provide benefits to humans as well. As an example, Maki’s research team has made a fermented food called natto using bacteria isolated from the air at 3,000 m, which is currently sold under the name “Sky Natto” in Japan.

The potential impacts of dust and sandstorm microbes make research in this field critical. Located at KAUST and surrounded by some of the largest deserts in the world, Behzad, Mineta, and Gojobori are well situated to investigate these microorganisms using cutting-edge technology. “Our laboratory is examining the potential impact of sandstorms on human health and the environment using metagenomic approaches,” notes Behzad on behalf of all three of the authors, an endeavor made possible by the state-of-the-art facilities at KAUST. While the majority of the current knowledge on this topic is derived from culture-based approaches, such technology has the potential to shed light on the ∼90% of environmental microbes that cannot currently be cultured.

In addition to advances in metagenomics, the authors anticipate that future research will benefit from improvements in culturing techniques and air sample collection. In particular, Behzad notes, “I would hope that within a decade or two, we would have sufficient tools necessary to explore airborne microbiomes at all levels of the atmosphere, not just when deposited on the surface.” Most importantly, however, Behzad, Mineta, and Gojobori believe that the establishment of large-scale, multidisciplinary collaborations across different laboratories will be key for unraveling the mysteries of this global phenomenon. “Unification of standardized methodological frameworks across different laboratories could facilitate reproducibility and comparison of data between different research communities. Such unified frameworks require considerable investments of time and resources to develop and perfect, but when used by the wider research community, they could help complete gaps in our current understanding of sandstorm-derived microbiota.”

Importantly, Behzad et al. point out that the study of these microbes and their impacts is especially urgent given the predicted increase in dust and sandstorm-related activity in the future due to global climate change. The authors note that over the past two decades, the number and intensity of the sandstorms in the region surrounding KAUST have been on the rise. Thus, a better understanding of the risks and effects of desertification may help to develop control measures or protective policies. Microbes are “necessary building blocks of living ecosystems,” concludes Behzad. “Studying them helps us unlock their potential and understand their influence on us. Studies of airborne microbiota enable us to monitor our environment for potential risks to human and ecosystem health.”

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“Traveling Dust

Science Net Links

It may surprise you that dust can travel this far, but it can. Using some NASA satellites, such as the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer, scientists like Griffin can actually follow the path of dust clouds that form over the Sahara and cross the Atlantic Ocean.

How do these dust clouds make it across the sea? It seems that the same winds that push hurricanes across the Atlantic actually push the clouds of dust as well. It takes about 5-7 days for the dust clouds to move from the Sahara to the Caribbean and southeastern United States. But America doesn’t get hit from just Africa. It also gets dust from the Asian deserts. Once a cloud rolls off the coast of China, it takes about 9 days for it to move across the Pacific and arrive in the United States.

The dust clouds themselves are actually very large. In fact, they’re huge. They extend from the sea surface to as high as 10 kilometers. Griffin and his colleagues believe that the upper portions of the dust clouds serve to filter out UV light, which is lethal to microorganisms. As a result, the microbes at the lower levels are shielded from the light and survive the voyage. Scientists have found as many as 20-40 colonies of bacteria growing in some of these dust clouds. In addition to the bacteria, they also see virus-like particles that could infect plants and animals. According to the National Institutes of Health, airborne dust is a number one cause of respiratory stress worldwide, even without the microorganisms that are present in the dust clouds. So if it turns out that these microbes are able to cause diseases, that’s all the more reason to keep an eye on the levels of dust in the air.”

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Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Dust could be good for you

Could dust really be good for you?  Have a look at this.

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“Bad news, neat freaks: Dust could be good for you

Globe and Mail – click to read the original article

WENCY LEUNG

Bad news, neat freaks. All that work you’ve done to keep your homes dust-free may be counter-productive.

A new study has found that household dust actually purifies the air by neutralizing harmful ozone, according to The Canadian Press.

The gross part is it’s the flakes of human skin in dust that gives it its ozone-fighting power.

Researchers from the American Chemical Society found that dust containing high amounts of squalene, a component in human skin, can reduce up to 15 per cent of ozone in the air. (Ozone, when present in the air we breathe instead of high up in the atmosphere, is a pollutant that can damage our lungs, The Canadian Press explains.)

“Dust is parts of…people that have been in that room,” researcher Charles Weschler told The Canadian Press. “I mean, that’s a gross way of thinking about it.”

Squalene is present in the oils of our skin, which makes humans “remarkably good ozone sinks,” Dr. Weschler said.

Humans shed up to 500 million skin cells per day, so just think of all the ozone-neutralizing bits of your body that are scattered around your home.

The Canadian Press warns you may not want to retire your feather duster just yet, though.

Sure, it may clear up some of the ozone in the air, but the dust itself can leave allergy-sufferers wheezing.

What do you think? Does the thought of being surrounded by bits of skin make you want to clean your house more or less?”

Dust could be good for you

And here’s some more from Ask Doctor K …..

Is dust dangerous?

Ask Doctor K –

DEAR DOCTOR K:
I keep a tidy house, but no matter how much I clean, there’s more dust than I’d like. Is dust dangerous to my family’s health?

DEAR READER:
Yes, depending on its contents, dust can be harmful to your health.

What is dust? It’s a little like sausage: You don’t want to know what’s in it. But I’ll tell you anyway.

More than half of household dust comes from soil either tracked into the home or wafting in as airborne particles through doors and windows. The remainder of dust is a hodgepodge that includes skin cells from family members, skin cells and fur from household pets, carpet fibers, kitchen grease — and more.

Household dust often contains remnants of household chemicals and possibly even heavy metals. It also contains bacteria, fungi and dust mite (insect) particles that can trigger allergies. In particular, the debris dust mites leave behind can provoke powerful allergic reactions.

The most vulnerable family members are the youngest: Infants are up to 100 times more susceptible to the health hazards of dust-borne pollutants than adults.

Perhaps the most effective way to control dust levels is with regular housekeeping. Frequent vacuuming, preferably using a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, is a good place to start. It may be necessary to vacuum several times a week.

Cleaning can temporarily launch into the air dust that has settled on floors, carpets and furniture. People with respiratory allergies should consider wearing a mask that filters out dust when they clean. One way to capture the dust that gets stirred up is to clean higher surfaces first and then work your way down. Wiping floors and hard surfaces with a damp cloth or sponge will eliminate a lot of dust. You can also use products like Grab-it or Swiffer that are treated with chemicals to attract dust.

You should consider putting heavy-duty doormats in front of doorways to stem the amount of soil coming into your house. Even better: Remove your shoes upon coming inside.

Install weatherproofing around doors and windows to help keep out airborne particles. Filters on heating and air conditioning systems should reduce dust. Portable air cleaners with HEPA filters are another option. Air purifiers are a less effective option than HEPA filtration, and they may emit small amounts of ozone, a gas that can worsen asthma symptoms.

I’ve talked about how dust in the home can trigger allergies, so you’d think that dust is just plain bad. But it may not be that simple. New research indicates that newborns and very young children who grow up in relatively “dirty” surroundings, such as farms, may actually be protected against developing allergies and allergic diseases (such as asthma) later in life. I’m not urging you to keep a dusty home for the first few years of a child’s life, but someday you may hear that advice!”

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Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

 

The Science of Dust

We are so busy trying to get rid of dust but Pablo Picasso loved it……… and here’s why.

(To read the original article please go to Brain Pickings)

The Science of Dust

“The Science of Dust, Picasso’s Favorite Phenomenon

“With every breath, we inhale a bit of the story of our universe, our planet’s past and future…”

BY MARIA POPOVA

It takes more than three centuries for a one-foot layer of dust to accumulate. The entirety of the Roman Empire is buried nine feet underground — that is, under nine feet of tightly compacted dust. This household nuisance is indeed one of nature’s most humbling phenomena and Earth’s most steadfast preserver. Picasso was fascinated by it. In a passage from Hungarian photographer Brassaï’s 1964 gem Conversations with Picasso (public library) — which also gave us the iconic artist on success and not compromising and intuition and where ideas come from — Picasso marvels the news of an excavation in which archeologists preserved a cross-section more than ten feet high, containing multiple layers built over the millennia. When Brassaï notes how moving it is that “in a glance, you can take in thousands of years of history,” Picasso responds enthusiastically:

And you know what’s responsible? It’s dust! The earth doesn’t have a housekeeper to do the dusting. And the dust that falls on it every day remains there. Everything that’s come down to us from the past has been conserved by dust. Right here, look at these piles, in a few weeks a thick layer of dust has formed. On rue La Boétie, in some of my rooms … my things were already beginning to disappear, buried in dust. You know what? I always forbade everyone to clean my studios, dust them, not only for fear they would disturb my things, but especially because I always counted on the protection of dust. It’s my ally. I always let it settle where it likes. It’s like a layer of protection. When there’s dust missing here or there, it’s because someone has touched my things. I see immediately someone has been there. And it’s because I live constantly with dust, in dust, that I prefer to wear gray suits, the only color on which it leaves no trace.”

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Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

What your dust says about you

“Dust talks”, says Emily Anthes.  Have a read and see what it’s saying!

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New Yorker

Our Dust, Ourselves

By – Emily Anthes

“Dust talks. That clump of gray fuzz hiding under the couch may look dull, but it contains multitudes: tiny errant crumbs of toast, microscopic fibres from a winter coat, fragments of dead leaves, dog dander, sidewalk grit, sloughed-off skin cells, grime-loving bacteria. “Each bit of dust is a microhistory of your life,” Rob Dunn, a biologist at North Carolina State University, told me recently. For the past four years, Dunn and two of his colleagues—Noah Fierer, a microbial ecologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Holly Menninger, the director of public science at N.C. State—have been deciphering these histories, investigating the microorganisms in our dust and how their lives are intertwined with our own.

The scientists began with a small pilot study, recruiting forty families in the Raleigh-Durham area to swab nine locations in their homes. When the researchers analyzed these cotton swabs and sequenced the fragments of bacterial DNA that they contained, they found that even the most sparkling houses were teeming with microbial squatters—more than two thousand distinct types, on average. Different rooms formed distinct ecological niches: kitchens were popular among the bacteria that grow on produce, whereas bedroom and bathroom surfaces were colonized by those that typically dwell on the skin. (In a troubling discovery, Dunn and his colleagues learned that, from a microbiological perspective, toilet seats and pillowcases look strikingly similar.)

In many ways, these findings were predictable. What the researchers had some difficulty making sense of was the variation that they observed between homes. “What, really, is determining what lives in your house versus my house?” Dunn asked. To answer that question, they expanded the study to a larger, more diverse set of homes—about eleven hundred in total, from across the continental United States—and asked volunteers to swab the trim around their interior doorways. “We focussed on that because nobody ever cleans it,” Fierer told me. “Or we don’t clean it very often—maybe you’re an exception.” (I am not.) To provide a point of comparison, each volunteer also collected dust from an exterior door and then mailed the samples to Fierer’s Colorado lab.

Fierer and his team isolated, amplified, and sequenced the DNA that was present in each sample, listing the types of bacteria and fungi that they found. The list soon grew long. “The diversity was just crazy,” Dunn said. In total, the indoor dust contained more than sixty-three thousand species of fungi and a hundred and sixteen thousand species of bacteria. For the fungi, location was king. Houses in eastern states had different fungal communities than those in western ones. Ditto homes in humid climates compared with those in dry ones. In fact, the geographic correlation was so strong that Dunn and Fierer have since shown, in a separate paper, that they can use fungal DNA to determine, to within about a hundred and fifty miles, where in the United States a dust sample originated. If scientists can narrow this geographic range—and Dunn expects that they can—it could prove a useful forensic tool. “Imagine you get a box from somewhere, it’s got something suspicious in it, and you want to be able to identify where that suspicious thing might have come from,” Dunn said. “This is actually a pretty easy way to do that.”

Bacterial communities, on the other hand, were shaped less by a home’s location than by its occupants. “We’re really the dominant sources—us and our pets are the dominant sources—of bacteria inside homes,” Fierer said. The fur factor loomed especially large. Dogs introduced unique drool and fecal microbes into a home and tracked in soil dwellers from outside. Cats also changed a home’s microbial makeup, but more modestly, perhaps because they are smaller and venture outside less often. By analyzing the bacterial DNA in dust, the researchers were able to predict whether a home contained a dog with ninety-two-per-cent accuracy and a cat with eighty-three-per-cent accuracy.

The sex of a home’s human occupants also played a role in shaping the indoor ecosystem. Lactobacillus_ _bacteria, which are a major component of the vaginal microbiome, were most abundant in homes in which women outnumbered men. When men were in the majority, however, different bacteria thrived: Roseburia, which normally lives in the gut, and Corynebacterium and Dermabacter, which both inhabit the skin. Corynebacterium is known to occupy the armpit and contribute to body odor. “Maybe it means that men’s houses smell more like armpits,” Dunn suggested. “That’s probably—microbially, that’s a fair assessment.” The findings may be due to sex differences in skin biology; men tend to have more Corynebacterium on their skin—and to shed more skin microbes into the environment—than women do. (In the paper, the researchers also acknowledge the possibility that a bachelor pad’s bacterial signature could be the result of “hygiene practices.”)

Most of our microscopic roommates are unlikely to present a real threat; many species of bacteria, scientists now know, are crucial partners in maintaining our health. “We’re surrounded by microbes all the time, and that’s not a bad thing,” Fierer said. In the next phase of their research, he and Dunn hope to identify connections between a home’s microscopic inhabitants and the health of its human ones. And there are likely to be more findings lurking in the dust that the volunteers already collected. How does the use of antimicrobial cleaning products alter a home’s profile? Is there a link between our genomes and the species that occupy our homes? There’s far more data than the scientists can analyze themselves, so they have posted it all online; members of the public can download the complete data set and hunt for new correlations and patterns. “We’ve just opened up this giant black box of what lives with us,” Dunn said. “In the last twelve thousand years, we all moved from being in houses that were more or less open to the environment to closed-up houses. And yet all of the indications we get are that they’re still full of life.” Even in the smallest studio apartment, we’re never truly alone.”

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Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

NASA Monitors Sand Flying From the Sahara to the Amazon

This amazing video from Time shows how NASA monitors sand blown from the Sahara Desert to the Amazon jungle.

Click the link here to see the original article and to watch the video.

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“A NASA satellite has been monitoring the movement of sand from the Sahara Desert in Africa to the Amazon rainforest in South America.

The space agency’s Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) is tracking the massive plumes of dust particles that make the Atlantic crossing from the great African desert to the largest rainforest in the world, where the particles settle and aid plant growth. The phosphorus content of the African dust is an important nutrient in the Amazon.

On average, 182 million tons of dust leave Africa each year, of which 27 million tons is deposited in the Amazon basin, according to data collected since CALIPSO launched in 2006. The amount varies each year, however.

“Using satellites to get a clear picture of dust is important for understanding and eventually using computers to model where that dust will go now and in future climate scenarios,” NASA research scientist Hongbin Yu says.”

NASA Monitors Sand Flying From the Sahara to the Amazon

Is Dust Worse in Summer?

Dust mites and allergies

Summer is on the way and so are allergies!  Take a look at the articles below for some info and some solutions.  Excerpts have been taken from both articles – for the complete article, please follow the links provided.

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How to Beat Summer AllergiesWebMD

“Spring’s over, but you’re still stopped up, sniffly, and sneezing.

Welcome to summer allergy season. It keeps going long after April’s showers and May’s flowers are gone.

Many of the same triggers are to blame. Once you know what they are, you can take steps to get treated.

Pollen Is the Biggest Culprit
Trees are usually done with their pollen-fest by late spring. That leaves grasses and weeds to trigger summer allergies.

Smog: It’s Worst This Time of Year
Summer air pollution can make your symptoms worse. One of the most common is ozone at the ground level. It’s created in the atmosphere from a mix of sunlight and chemicals from car exhaust. Summer’s strong sunlight and calm winds create clouds of ozone around some cities.

Tiny Things Grow in Warm Air
Molds love damp areas, including the basement and bathrooms. Their spores get into the air and set off an allergic reaction.

Microscopic insects called dust mites peak during summer. They thrive in warm, humid temperatures and nest in beds, fabric, and carpets. Their residue can get into the air and set off sneezes, wheezes, and runny noses.

How to Make Allergy Season Easier
Take some simple steps to avoid your triggers.

Stay inside when the pollen count and smog levels are high.
Keep your doors and windows closed. Run your air conditioner to keep allergens out. Use an air purifier.
Clean air filters in your home often. Also clean bookshelves, vents, and other places where pollen collects.
Wash bedding and rugs in hot water to get rid of dust mites and other allergens.
Wash your hair, shower, and change your clothes after you go outside.
Vacuum often and wear a mask. The process can kick up pollen, mold, and dust trapped in your carpet. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
Wear a mask when you mow your lawn to avoid grass pollen.
Keep the humidity in your house between 30% and 50% so dust mites won’t thrive.”

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Dust Mite Solutions 

The Worst Time of Year for Dust Mite Allergy Symptoms

“If you have a dust mite allergy, you might wonder when the worst time of year is for dust mite symptoms. Could it be the Spring, Summer, Autumn, or Winter…or all of them. For many people suffering from dust mite allergy it probably seems like the suffering never stops. I agree!

In this article, I’ll share my personal experience with year-round dust mite allergy, typical symptoms, and some general treatment advice that was given to me by allergists. In addition, we’ll look at a few ways to improve your health and reduce your dust mite exposure.

Seasonal Pollen Allergies and Year-Round Dust Mite Allergies
For many allergy sufferers, seasonal exposure yields symptoms. For others, it may feel like one season is just as bad as another. For example, tree pollen season usually corresponds with spring when the weather warms and trees emerge from dormancy. Here is a guide to show when you might expect pollen allergy symptoms:

Pollen
Spring – trees
Summer – grasses
Fall – weeds
Winter – relief!

But what about Dust Mite allergy?
Well it’s not that simple. Dust mites live around us, primarily in our homes. They are less dependent on seasonality and more dependent on us!

Dust mite allergy is a unique allergy because dust mites are a living creature with short life spans. They need little water to survive (they absorb it through the air) and live off an endless supply of food that humans and pets produce on a daily basis. Their food source is, yes you guessed it, dead skin.

Our home environment allows dust mites to thrive and multiply throughout the year. Believe it or not, you cannot see dust mites. They are microscopic, and their presence in your home is almost guaranteed.

If you’re not sure whether you have a dust mite allergy here is a simple but accurate tip: If you have year-round allergy symptoms there is a good chance it’s due to dust mites.

In Summer Consider These Actions to Protect From Dust Mites
Dust Mite Proof Bedding (covers)

Beds are the number 1 home to dust mites. Protect your mattresses and pillows with dust-mite proof covers. We reviewed and recommended these mattress covers!

Dehumidifiers

If you live in a humid environment think about purchasing a dehumidifier that can reduce indoor moisture levels. Dehumidifiers can help reduce the dust mite population and reduce mold growth, especially if you have a basement.

Air Purifiers

Newer air purifiers can do wonders for cleaning indoor air. HEPA technology filters, which pick up the smallest particulates from the air can clean a whole room in 2 hours. Air Purifiers are a great addition for allergic individuals. Keep one air purifier in each room!

Air Conditioning Filters

Replace your filters in the winter and summer and buy allergy filters that remove the finest of particulates from the air. Filtrete has some great filters that not only keep out dust mites and allergens, but also odors, chemicals, and smoke (amazing).

Don’t Sweep, Use HEPA Vacuums!

Sweeping only stirs dust into the air and dust can stay suspended for hours, long after you’ve cleaned. HEPA filter vacuums suck in dust and capture it before air is released back into the room. HEPA vacuums work great for people with dust mite allergy and asthma.”

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Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Why monitor dust in the workplace?

Dust in the workplace

Today we have posted a couple of articles about dust in the workplace and an interesting dust control method used by the US Military………… enjoy the read!

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“Why monitor dust in the workplace? By: Josh Thomas (Source – Environmental Expert)
Courtesy of Ashtead Technology Ltd

Almost any place of employment can present a potential threat to health and safety from airborne particulates and aerosols. It is important to note, however, that dust hazards are not necessarily visible to the human eye and that the finest particles can represent the greatest threat because of their ability to travel deepest into the lungs. Effective monitoring is therefore key to the implementation of an effective risk management strategy.

There are two major reasons for monitoring dust in the workplace; to enable air quality management, and for regulatory compliance. The immediate effects of dust can be irritation to eyes, headaches, fatigue, coughing and sneezing. As such, poor indoor air quality can lower employee performance and cause increased absenteeism through sickness. In addition, particulates are known to create long-term deleterious effects, contributing to serious illnesses. In combination with outdoor exposure (to pollution form vehicles for example), the Government has estimated that 29,000 premature deaths occur in the UK every year as a result of particle pollution. This means that, particularly in urban areas, natural ventilation may not necessarily improve indoor air quality.

Employers are responsible for ensuring that staff and visitors are not exposed to poor air quality in the workplace, so it is necessary to conduct monitoring. Accurate and effective monitoring data can be used to check exposure levels and to help identify safe working practices.

Monitoring also helps to demonstrate compliance with relevant regulations. COSHH is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), employers can prevent or reduce workers’ exposure to hazardous substances by finding out what the health hazards are; by deciding how to prevent harm to health; by providing effective control measures; by providing information and training; by providing monitoring and health surveillance, and by planning for emergencies.

In order to evaluate workplace safety, monitoring data is compared with Workplace Exposure levels (WELs) which prescribe the maximum exposure level to a hazardous substance over a set period of time. Failure to comply with COSHH and WELs can result in financial penalties, prosecutions and civil claims.

Indoor air quality is affected by both internal and external factors. Air pollution may arise from external sources such as neighbouring factories, building and development activities, or from vehicles – especially those with diesel engines. Internally, air quality is affected by working practices and business processes. For example, dust may arise from raw materials such as powders, or it may be produced by processes that generate particulates; including dust, mist, aerosols and smoke. In all cases, internal and external, it is important to identify both the source and the seriousness of the problem, so that appropriate and effective mitigation measures can be implemented. These might include, for example, ventilation, process dust prevention, the management of shift patterns, personal protection equipment (PPE) and alarm systems.

Regulatory requirements to monitor

Under the Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers have a legal duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees. Furthermore, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to assess and control risks to protect their employees. A key element of this is the requirement to comply with the COSHH Regulations. The HSE says that exposure measurement is required:

  • For COSHH assessment, to help select the right controls
    Where there is a serious risk to health from inhalation
    To check that exposure limits are not exceeded
    To check the performance of exposure controls
    To help select the right respiratory protection equipment
    To check exposure following a change in a process
    To show any need for health surveillance; or
    When an inspector issues an ‘Improvement Notice’ requiring monitoring

The COSSH Regulations include dust, mist, vapour, fumes and chemicals, but they do not cover Lead or Asbestos. Specific requirements exist for certain industries such as construction. Generally, WELs relate to particulate diameter because the health effects of particulates are heavily influenced by their size.

Inhalable dust is that which enters the nose or mouth during breathing and is available for deposition in the respiratory tract. It includes particles with a width between 2.5 and 10 microns (PM2.5 – PM10), and the WEL for this fraction is 10 mg/m3 as an 8-hour Time Weighted Average (TWA).

Respirable dust is the fraction that penetrates deep into the gas exchange region of the
lungs. It includes particles with a width between 1 and 2.5 microns (PM1– PM2.5), and the WEL for this fraction is 4 mg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA. Lower specific WELs exist for particulates that present a greater threat to health. For example, Silica dusts have a WEL of just 0.1 mg/m3 respirable dust as an 8-hour TWA.

The costs of non-compliance

In addition to the enormous numbers of premature deaths that result from exposure to outdoor air pollution, there are also numerous well-documented instances demonstrating the harm caused by exposure to indoor pollution from dust, smoke, aerosols and vapour. For example, a 46-year-old cook developed breathing problems after working with flour in a school kitchen with poor ventilation. Her breathing problems became so severe that she could hardly walk and had to sleep sitting up. She became severely asthmatic and had to retire early on health grounds. With the support of her Union she made a compensation claim on the basis that decent working conditions were not provided, and the council admitted that it had not taken sufficient action despite repeated complaints. Consequently, the courts awarded the cook £200,000 in damages.

In another example, between 1995 and 2004, a solderer was exposed to rosin based solder fumes and suffered health deterioration and breathing problems including asthma. An investigation conducted by the HSE found that the company did not have adequate control measures in place and failed to install fume extraction equipment. Furthermore, the company did not employ rosin-free solder until December 2003, despite an assessment having identified the need in 1999. The company was subsequently fined £100,000 with £30,000 costs, a punishment which attracted both local and national media attention.

Monitoring dust

A wide variety of methods exist for the measurement of dust, and the choice of equipment is dictated by the application. For example, it is obviously important to employ a technology that is able to measure the particulates that will be present. In addition, it will be necessary to determine whether monitoring should be continuous, at a single point, or whether portable instruments are necessary to check multiple locations. Monitoring might be conducted in a work space, or personal sampling might be undertaken in order to assess the exposure of an individual over an entire shift.

Personal Sampling Pumps represent the preferred method for workplace exposure monitoring where it is necessary to demonstrate regulatory compliance or where legal dispute is a possibility. An HSE document (MDHS 14/4) provides workplace exposure monitoring guidance for collecting respirable, thoracic and inhalable aerosol fractions. The samples collected by this process are analysed in a laboratory, which means that chemical analysis is also possible. However, the sampling method incurs a delay and incurs extra cost.

In response to the wide variety of applications and monitoring requirements, Ashtead Technology stocks a comprehensive range of monitors for both sale and rental, providing customers with complete financial and technical flexibility. As a TSI Gold Partner, Ashtead Technology provides a comprehensive range of maintenance and calibration services; helping customers to ensure that their monitoring equipment remains in optimal condition. Ashtead’s fleet of rental equipment includes large numbers of the latest TSI instruments, supported by the highest levels of service and technical assistance. Employing advanced light-scattering laser photometers, the TSI products are supplied with a calibration certificate and provide real-time, direct-reading aerosol monitoring and analysis of different particulate fractions in workplace, cleanroom, HVAC, fugitive emissions and environmental monitoring applications.

The TSI range of dust monitors is continually being developed to bring new levels of functionality to the market. For example, the new lightweight AM520 Personal Dust Monitor is able to measure and log PM10, Respirable (PM4), PM5 (China Respirable), PM2.5, PM1 or 0.8μm Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM), providing real-time audible and visual alarms, and running from a rechargeable battery for up to 20 hours. For outdoor applications, the MCERTS approved Environmental DustTrak is web-enabled, providing a quick and easy dust monitoring solution for applications such as building and development projects.”

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“US Military’s First Choice for Dust Control Solutions – Rhino Snot (Envirotac II)  (Source – Environmental Expert)

Home soil or foreign, whenever the US Military is in need of a dust control job, they call EP&A Envirotac Inc. without a second thought. The US Military first came to know about Envirotac’s dust control products during its Afghanistan mission in 2002, where it used Envirotac II polymer for helicopter landing site and airfields in the Camp Rhino. This is also where Envirotac II received its shiny moniker – Rhino Snot.

Again in 2008, the military used it in Iraq, when the powder-fine dust at the site of Combat Outpost Rawah made helicopter landing extremely difficult. And the best part of working with Envirotac polymers is that they are easy to apply, and make the surface ready for the desired purpose within 24-48 hours.

Besides military usage, Envirotac line of dust control products has many applications in numerous industries, such as road construction, mine tailing, oil pads, parking lots, and so on.”

Farming - dust in the workplace

“Dangers of Dust in the Workplace (Source – Workplace Safety Advice)  By Jeff Durham

Excessive dust in the workplace can be highly dangerous on a number of levels. Firstly, although it’s rare, a cloud of concentrated dust is potentially combustible and can, therefore, cause explosions so it’s important that companies keep their working environments as relatively dust-free as they can to avoid such potential catastrophes. However, the most common problem associated with dust in the workplace arises from dust-related illnesses which have been found to be one of the major killers in the UK when it comes to occupational health.

Common Environments For Contracting Dust Related Illnesses
All workplaces need to carry out cleaning duties and pay particular regard to hygiene issues and, for the most part, in places such as an office for example, dust should not present too much of a problem. However, there are many industries which need to be especially vigilant. Here is a list of some of the more common working environments where excess dust can create a real problem.

  • Mines and quarries – dust from coal, flint and silica
    Construction sites – dust from cement and asbestos
    Farming and Agriculture – dust from grain
    Carpentry and Joinery – dust from wood
    Bakeries and mills – dust from flour
    Textiles – dust from materials like leather
    Dust Related Illnesses

Workers can suffer from a variety of illnesses and medical conditions as a result of working in dust-filled environments. Depending on the nature of the work, some of these ailments can become more serious than others. The range of dust related illnesses and conditions encompass eye and nose damage, rashes and other skin conditions, asthma, silicosis, asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer related to asbestos. Pneumoconiosis, which is the name given to diseases such as those caused by the likes of asbestosis and silicosis, is a broad term which describes any condition which affects the lungs causing inflammation or scarring of the lung tissue. One of the major worries is that it can often take several decades for a person to develop any symptoms of pneumoconiosis which can manifest itself in things like excess coughing, breathing difficulties and even weight loss.

Prevention and Reducing the Risks
There are a number of government legislations which incorporate provisions which are aimed at minimising the risk from dust. These include the Factories Act 1961, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1988. There are also other regulations in place specific to certain industries, the Coal Mines (Respirable Dust) Regulations 1975, being a prime example.
From an employer’s perspective, they need to do all they can to eliminate or, at least, disperse the dust. An exhaust ventilation system will remove the dust from a particular site whilst a dilution ventilation system helps to disperse dust evenly throughout a particular area as opposed to allowing it to build up into a concentrated mass within one specific spot. Where dust has a fundamental presence within a particular occupation, workers need to be provided with the correct protective clothing and with breathing respirators if need be. These are much better than dust masks which have often been proved to be relatively ineffective. Employers should also ensure that workers undergo regular health checks which might pinpoint any early signs of illness.”

For the complete article, please follow the above link.

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Have a great day! Chris

Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

What happens to dust in the air you breathe in your lungs?

Lungs

Here is some information about what happens when you breath in dust……..  I trust you’ll find it informative.

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“What happens to dust in the air you breathe in your lungs?Quora – Shreya Thacker, Physical and Respiratory Therapist

Our lungs are self-cleansing.

Throughout the respiratory system, there are various checkpoints that deploy different defenses against the microbes/dust particles.

The first defense is in the form of nasal hair. Nasal hair act like a filter that sifts the inhaled air to remove bacteria/fungi/viruses/any other offensive specks (dust, pollen, etc).

The smaller filtered particles, along with nasal secretions – which is mostly water, form the boogers (yuck, I know).

The larger particles, that often irritate the nasal mucous membranes, trigger a sneeze. This explosive and often violent expulsion of air is usually enough to clear the nose of the irritants.

The second defense is in the form of a sticky, gel-like substance called the mucus. Mucus is famous among children as the snot and among adults as the phlegm.

About a liter of mucus is produced every day by the airways. More, when we’re sick. (This why we don’t notice its presence when healthy)

The purpose of the sticky mucus, among many other things, is to trap dust particles from the inspired air.

The trapped dust and the mucus are constantly moved towards the upper airway (nose and mouth) in a sweeping motion to be expelled by tiny hair-like structures called cilia. Cilia move in a wave-like motion — back and forth — beating 11-14 times/second.

The larger trapped particles that cause throat irritation trigger a cough. The ones in the nose stimulate a sneeze. Alternatively, one could simply spit or blow the mucus out.

However, most of the mucus is swallowed. It passes through the alimentary canal, like food and water, without any adverse effects.

Finally, the smallest of the particles that escape and slide through the cracks in first two defense systems to reach the lungs face the wrath of the immune system.

Macrophages, type of white blood cells, quite literally engulf, ingest, digest, and neutralize the offending agent.

All these mechanisms, when work together, simultaneously and efficiently, ensure the lungs are free of the allergic, disease inducing particles.”

Lungs

“What are the Effects of Dust on the Lungs? – CCOHS

The lungs are constantly exposed to danger from the dusts we breathe. Luckily, the lungs have another function – they have defense mechanisms that protects them by removing dust particles from the respiratory system. For example, during a lifetime, a coal miner may inhale 1,000 g of dust into his lungs. When doctors examine the lungs of a miner after death, they find no more than 40 g of dust. Such a relatively small residue illustrates the importance of the lungs’ defenses, and certainly suggests that they are quite effective. On the other hand, even though the lungs can clear themselves, excessive inhalation of dust may result in disease.

The lungs are protected by a series of defense mechanisms in different regions of the respiratory tract.

When a person breathes in, particles suspended in the air enter the nose, but not all of them reach the lungs. The nose is an efficient filter. Most large particles are stopped in it, until they are removed mechanically by blowing the nose or sneezing.

Some of the smaller particles succeed in passing through the nose to reach the windpipe and the dividing air tubes that lead to the lungs.
These tubes are called bronchi and bronchioles. All of these airways are lined by cells. The mucus they produce catches most of the dust particles. Tiny hairs called cilia, covering the walls of the air tubes, move the mucus upward and out into the throat, where it is either coughed up and spat out, or swallowed.

The air reaches the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the inner part of the lungs with any dust particles that avoided the defenses in the nose and airways. The air sacs are very important because through them, the body receives oxygen and releases carbon dioxide.

Dust that reaches the sacs and the lower part of the airways where there are no cilia is attacked by special cells called macrophages. These are extremely important for the defense of the lungs. They keep the air sacs clean. Macrophages virtually swallow the particles. Then the macrophages, in a way which is not well understood, reach the part of the airways that is covered by cilia. The wavelike motions of the cilia move the macrophages which contain dust to the throat, where they are spat out or swallowed.

Besides macrophages, the lungs have another system for the removal of dust. The lungs can react to the presence of germ-bearing particles by producing certain proteins. These proteins attach to particles to neutralize them.

Dusts are tiny solid particles scattered or suspended in the air. The particles are “inorganic” or “organic,” depending on the source of the dust. Inorganic dusts can come from grinding metals or minerals such as rock or soil. Examples of inorganic dusts are silica, asbestos, and coal.

Organic dusts originate from plants or animals. An example of organic dust is dust that arises from handling grain. These dusts can contain a great number of substances. Aside from the vegetable or animal component, organic dusts may also contain fungi or microbes and the toxic substances given off by microbes. For example, histoplasmosis, psittacosis and Q Fever are diseases that people can get if they breathe in organic that are infected with a certain microorganisms.

Dusts can also come from organic chemicals (e.g., dyes, pesticides). However, in this OSH Answers document, we are only considering dust particles that cause fibrosis or allergic reactions in the lungs. We are not including chemical dusts that cause other acute toxic effects, nor long term effects such as cancer for example.

What are the reactions of the lungs to dust?
The way the respiratory system responds to inhaled particles depends, to a great extent, on where the particle settles. For example, irritant dust that settles in the nose may lead to rhinitis, an inflammation of the mucous membrane. If the particle attacks the larger air passages, inflammation of the trachea (tracheitis) or the bronchi (bronchitis) may be seen.

The most significant reactions of the lung occur in the deepest parts of this organ.

Particles that evade elimination in the nose or throat tend to settle in the sacs or close to the end of the airways. But if the amount of dust is large, the macrophage system may fail. Dust particles and dust-containing macrophages collect in the lung tissues, causing injury to the lungs.

The amount of dust and the kinds of particles involved influence how serious the lung injury will be. For example, after the macrophages swallow silica particles, they die and give off toxic substances. These substances cause fibrous or scar tissue to form. This tissue is the body’s normal way of repairing itself. However, in the case of crystalline silica so much fibrous tissue and scarring form that lung function can be impaired. The general name for this condition for fibrous tissue formation and scarring is fibrosis. The particles which cause fibrosis or scarring are called fibrogenic. When fibrosis is caused by crystalline silica, the condition is called silicosis.”

For more information please follow the link above to read the full article
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Have a great day! Chris

Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Dust and Farming

A couple of good articles on the problems of dust in the agricultural sector.

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Dust particles in livestock facilities – Phys Org – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – https://phys.org/news/2017-07-particles-livestock-facilities.html

“A beam of sunlight streams into your living room, illuminating a Milky Way of dust particles hanging in the air. Although the air looks thick, those visible dust particles are so big that they can’t reach the smallest branches of the respiratory tree in your lungs. It’s the dust we can’t see—smaller than 2.5 microns, called PM 2.5—that can cause allergies and other respiratory problems.

Inside livestock facilities, the dust particles are much more abundant than in a living room, and can cause pulmonary problems for anyone who breathes the air, including the animals. A recent research project on air quality characterizes the dust particles found in different livestock facilities. For the study, the air was sampled for three consecutive days in each of three types of animal production facilities—poultry, dairy, and swine.

“If you’re going to regulate air quality, first you have to measure it. And before you measure it, you have to characterize how to measure it and what’s in it,” says Richard Gates, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at University of Illinois and member of the research project team.

Gates says not all livestock facility dust is alike. “In order to manage or regulate the dust, we first have to understand its characteristics. Until we have that, we can’t make models that describe the emission from a building, how much of it drops out within 100 yards of a building, and how much of it travels much further from the facility.”

According to Gates, laying hen facilities are recognized as a very dusty environment; a dairy facility is a very open, airy environment with lots of fresh air; and a swine-finishing building, although not considered to be terribly dusty, is actually the worst overall in dust level, especially at the most dangerous particulate matter (PM) level.

“Of the three types of livestock buildings, swine facilities tip the scales in terms of having the highest amount of the dangerously small, PM 2.5 size particulate matter—significantly higher,” Gates says.

Anecdotally, Gates says a high percentage of people who work in livestock facilities, over time, develop respiratory issues. “They should be wearing protective masks at all times. On bigger farms it’s a requirement,” he says. “In the early days of raising livestock, masks weren’t available, and in developing countries, availability is still an issue. And pigs are affected, too. One of the major challenges in swine production is keeping them healthy without the use of antibiotics, and respiratory stress is one of the health issues.”

The lead researcher on the project, Ehab Mostafa, collected the data at livestock facilities in Germany, which are believed to be comparable in terms of dust to facilities in the United States, and conducted the first analysis. Mostafa also developed a sedimentation cylinder to measure the particulate matter. Air is blown into the top of the cylinder. Then a particle counter inside measures the density and weight-per-surface area of the particulates as they fall to the bottom.

“Interestingly, the particles are not all spherical,” Gates says. “Without scientific ways to characterize their shapes, then every model that we use to predict how many there are and how to measure them and their fate are wrong – because the models have been assuming spherical particles. We’ve known that they couldn’t all be perfectly round, but this study demonstrates you can use these derived values and improve predictions for more accurate models by accounting for differences in properties at different sizes and types of particulate matter.”

Gates says this research is a rigorous scientific approach to characterizing these particles. The information will be used as input for models to discover the fate of the dust as it leaves the building and its effect on the external environment.

“There are important outcomes from this research,” Gates says. “One is to characterize what’s going on in these three types of facilities. Then, with that information, we can compare it to what we already have for health standards for humans and animals. For example OSHA has an 8-hour exposure limit for PM 2.5.”

The study, “Physical properties of particulate matter from animal houses—empirical studies to improve emission modelling,” is published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.”
More information: Ehab Mostafa et al. Physical properties of particulate matter from animal houses—empirical studies to improve emission modelling, Environmental Science and Pollution Research (2016). DOI: 10.1007/s11356-016-6424-8
Journal reference: Environmental Science and Pollution Research

Provided by: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dust and Farming

Health Hazards In Agriculture – An Emerging Issue  – National Ag Safety Database – By Bradley K Rein – http://nasdonline.org/1246/d001050/health-hazards-in-agriculture-an-emerging-issue.html

“Perhaps more than any other occupational group, agricultural workers are exposed to a tremendous variety of environmental hazards that are potentially harmful to their health and well-being. Farmers and farm workers suffer from increased rates of respiratory diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, skin disorders, certain cancers, chemical toxicity, and heat-related illnesses. There are precautions that can be taken to minimize or eliminate these potential hazards.

RESPIRATORY HAZARDS

Farming situations present several respiratory hazards to farm workers. Exposure to these hazards has been linked to excessive coughing and congestion in 20 to 90 percent of farm workers and families. Symptoms of chronic bronchitis were observed in as many as 50 percent of swine confinement workers and grain handlers.
Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome (ODTS) is a common respiratory illness manifested by temporary influenza-like illness with fever, headache, and muscle aches and pains. Although much less common than ODTS, Farmer’s Lung is an allergic reaction caused by inhaling dust from moldy hay, straw, and grain. Dairy and grain farmers are the most common victims. The months when moldy crops are handled indoors are the most dangerous. For those who are susceptible, repeated exposure damages lung tissue, ca sing shortness of breath and a growing inability to perform strenuous work. Victims eventually may find it a struggle even to get out of a chair.

Dust from moldy hay, grain, and silage can also cause ODTS, which has symptoms resembling Farmer’s Lung. However, ODTS does not produce long-term illness or cause permanent lung damage.

Nuisance dusts and gases also are hazards. Suspended dust particles not containing spores from moldy organic matter are considered nuisance dusts. Repeated exposure can turn portions of the lung into hardened, nonfunctioning tissue and cause chronic bronchitis and occupational asthma.

A variety of disabling gases, including nitrogen dioxide (NO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), ammonia (NH3), Carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane (CH4), are produced during many routine operations. Exposure to low levels of NO2, H2S, or NH3 will produce lung and eye irritations, dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches. High levels of H2S, particularly, and NO2, secondarily, will quickly render a worker unconscious and death will follow.

The best prevention of respiratory disease is to wear a respirator approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Air-purifying respirators remove contaminants from the air, but can only be used in environments with enough oxygen to sustain life. Supplied-air respirators must be used in oxygen-limited environments, or in environments with acute toxic gas levels.

NOISE

Agricultural noise is another common health hazard on the farm. It is estimated that 10 percent of U.S. farm workers are exposed to average daily noise levels above 85 decibels, which is the “action” level at which hearing conservation program are required for industrial workers. Studies at the Universities of Missouri, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa found that noise-induced hearing loss has been found to affect a quarter of younger farmers, and at least 50 percent of older farmers. Significant numbers develop a communication handicap by age 30.
Prolonged exposure to excessive noise, such as that produced by tractors, combines, choppers, grain dryers, and chainsaws, can cause permanent hearing loss unless noise-control measures are taken. Ears provide two warning signs for overexposure: temporary threshold shift (TTF) and ringing in the ears (tinnitus). The two types of hearing protection available are ear muffs and ear plugs. Ear muffs are more effective, but the level of protection varies due to differences in size, shape, seal material, shell mass, and type of suspension. Ear plugs may be custom fined or preformed rubber, plastic, or foam inserts. Preformed inserts are cheaper, but ear plugs properly inserted into the ear and custom-fitted by trained personnel are more effective because the ear canal shape may vary.

If you are continually exposed to loud noises, you should have periodic hearing tests. This test, called an audiogram, will reveal signs of hearing loss. If a hearing loss is noted, take steps to reduce exposure, thereby eliminating further damage to your ears.”

Please follow the link above to read the full article.

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Enjoy your day! Chris

Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Dust and it’s Impact on Climate

Dust and its Impact on Earth’s Climate System – State of the planet
BY GISELA WINCKLER|JUNE 17, 2010

Most often, we think of dust simply as the stuff that accumulates on our windowsills, but those fine particles floating in the air play an important role in the global climate system.

Dust influences the radiative balance of the planet in two different ways, either directly by scattering and absorbing incoming solar radiation, or indirectly by changing the optical properties of clouds, themselves an important player in the climate system. Dust also contains iron, a limiting nutrient in many areas of the ocean, so when dust falls onto the ocean, it can act as a fertilizer for the growth of algae, or phytoplankton, which uses CO2. Dust not only affects climate, but also is influenced by it: its production, atmospheric transport and deposition are sensitive to climatic conditions.

During Earth’s history, dust has been strongly linked with climatic conditions: Ice cores and marine sediments tell us that the ice age world was much dustier than today’s world. Thus dust is both a driver and a passive recorder of climate change under different climatic regimes of the Earth’s past. However, its exact role in past climate change remains poorly constrained. Understanding the links between dust and climate in the past will be crucial to evaluate the future impacts of dust on the Earth’s climate system in a warming world.

Because dust affects and interacts with the climate system in so many different ways, a wide range of disciplines—atmospheric modelers, paleoclimatologists, geologists, ice core scientists, biogeochemists, chemical oceanographers, and many others – are required to evaluate its role and impact. The Lamont conference (DUSTSPEC: Dust records for a warming world), organized by Gisela Winckler (a researcher at Lamont and an adjunct professor at Columbia), Natalie Mahowald of Cornell, and Barbara Maher of Lancaster University, aimed to bring people from all those different, specialized fields together into one room.

Dust researchers from different realms of science have come together in the past—most notably, the DIRTMAP project, initiated in 2001, aggregated dust deposition data on land and in the ocean. It is a fabulous resource, but it is limited to two snapshots in time: the modern or late Holocene, and a snapshot from the Last Glacial Maximum (~20,000 years ago, when the planet was much colder than it is today), and certain areas of the planet are undersampled, like the Southern Ocean.


Scientists Warn Climate Change Could Bring the Dust Bowl Back Out of the History Books – Tom McKay – Gizmodo

If there’s anything that just about sums up the desperation of the Great Depression in one filthy package, it’s photos of the Dust Bowl, when over-farming resulted in roving dust storms choking large swathes of the Great Plains region. Now, scientists are projecting that climate change could bring those hardscrabble days to a dystopian landscape near you.

In a study published on July 17 in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers at Princeton University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory used satellite data from 2003-2015 to resolve some of the lingering uncertainty on prior dust activity models. Their research projects that “climate change will increase dust activity in the southern Great Plains from spring to fall in the late half of the twenty-first century – largely due to reduced precipitation, enhanced land surface bareness, and increased surface wind speed.”

In other words, deforestation and the mega-droughts which are increasingly becoming a feature of our changing climate are likely to create conditions ideal for the return of massive dust storms. On the flip side, the researchers projected a decrease in dust activity in the northern Great Plains during the spring due to “increased precipitation and reduced bareness.”

Exposure to the dust itself is, obviously, very unpleasant but is also linked to a wide variety of respiratory and other ailments, including the possibility of potentially deadly pathogens and agricultural chemicals like fertilizer and pesticide hitchhiking on the storms.

The original Dust Bowl accelerated the flight of hundreds of thousands of people from 19 states in the region; the storms were so bad cattle and residents choked from “dust pneumonia,” residents were forced to dust-proof homes and static electricity stalled cars and charged random metal objects.

Though the researchers noted the original Dust Bowl was caused in large part by rapid agricultural development of the Great Plains region combined with “improper” farming techniques like lack of irrigation or use of “dust mulch,” they wrote the “influences of land use on future dust emission are minor compared to climate change.”

The new data is merely preliminary, according to Princeton researcher Bing Pu, but it lays the groundwork for the climate community to gauge the level of the threat.

“Few existing climate models have captured the magnitude and variability of dust across North America,” Pu said in a statement on Princeton’s website. “… This is an early attempt to project future changes in dust activity in parts of the United States caused by increasing greenhouse gases. Our specific projections may provide an early warning on erosion control, and help improve risk management and resource planning.”

Dust on snow controls springtime river rise in West – Global Climate Change – By Carol Rasmussen,
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

A new study has found that dust, not spring warmth, controls the pace of spring snowmelt that feeds the headwaters of the Colorado River. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the amount of dust on the mountain snowpack controls how fast the Colorado Basin’s rivers rise in the spring regardless of air temperature, with more dust correlated with faster spring runoff and higher peak flows.

The finding is valuable for western water managers and advances our understanding of how freshwater resources, in the form of snow and ice, will respond to warming temperatures in the future. By improving knowledge of what controls the melting of snow, it improves understanding of the controls on how much solar heat Earth reflects back into space and how much it absorbs — an important factor in studies of weather and climate.

When snow gets covered by a layer of windblown dust or soot, the dark topcoat increases the amount of heat the snow absorbs from sunlight. Tom Painter of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has been researching the consequences of dust on snowmelt worldwide. This is the first study to focus on which has a stronger influence on spring runoff: warmer air temperatures or a coating of dust on the snow.

Windblown dust has increased in the U.S. Southwest as a result of changing climate patterns and human land-use decisions. With rainfall decreasing and more disturbances of the land, protective crusts on soil are removed and more bare soil is exposed. Winter and spring winds pick up the dusty soil and drop it on the Colorado Rockies to the northeast. Historical lake sediment analyses show there is currently an annual average of five to seven times more dust falling on the Rocky Mountain snowpack than there was before the mid-1800s.

Painter and colleagues looked at data on air temperature and dust in a mountain basin in southwestern Colorado from 2005 to 2014, and streamflow from three major tributary rivers that carry snowmelt from these mountains to the Colorado River. The Colorado River’s basin spans about 246,000 square miles (637,000 square kilometers) in parts of seven western states.

The researchers found that the effects of dust dominated the pace of the spring runoff even in years with unusually warm spring air temperatures. Conversely, there was almost no statistical correlation between air temperature and the pace of runoff.

“We found that when it’s clean, the rise to the peak streamflow is slower, and generally you get a smaller peak.” Painter said. “When the snowpack is really dusty, water just blasts out of the mountains.” The finding runs contrary to the widely held assumption that spring air temperature determines the likelihood of flooding.

Coauthor McKenzie Skiles, an assistant professor in the University of Utah Department of Geography, said that while the impacts of dust in the air, such as reduced air quality, are well known, the impacts of the dust once it’s been deposited on the land surface are not as well understood. “Given the reliance of the western U.S. on the natural snow reservoir, and the Colorado River in particular, it is critical to evaluate the impact of increasing dust deposition on the mountain snowpack,” she said.

Painter pointed out that the new finding doesn’t mean air temperatures in the region can be ignored in considering streamflows and flooding, especially in the future. “As air temperature continues to climb, it’s going to have more influence,” he said. Temperature controls whether precipitation falls as snow or as rain, for example, so ultimately it controls how much snow there is to melt. But, he said, “temperature is unlikely to control the variability in snowmelt rates. That will still be controlled by how dirty or clean the snowpack is.”

Skiles noted, “Dust on snow does not only impact the mountains that make up the headwaters of Colorado River. Surface darkening has been observed in mountain ranges all over the world, including the Alps and the Himalaya. What we learn about the role of dust deposition for snowmelt timing and intensity here in the western U.S. has global implications for improved snowmelt forecasting and management of snow water resources.”

The study, titled “Variation in rising limb of Colorado River snowmelt runoff hydrograph controlled by dust radiative forcing in snow,” was published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Coauthors are from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City; University of Colorado, Boulder; and University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.