A huge part of the danger in the construction site can be summed up in one word: Dust. Dust can take the form of natural minerals or man-made mineral fibers. When released to the air with such common construction tasks as cutting, drilling, grinding, or blasting, dust can be inhaled by the worker and cause him serious health problems.
If you think you aren’t fully at risk because you are just drilling at the confines of your home with the littlest diamond core bit, think again. Remember, it only takes a very small amount to affect your health. Before you go on with your task, let us take a look at the different types of construction dust. Keep in mind that all of them are harmful so you must, at all times, work with precaution.
Silicon dioxide or Silica, a mineral compound found in common construction materials as concrete, mortar and cement, will be broken down into silica dust if the material undergoes any disturbance (cutting, drilling, grinding, etc.).
Silica dust is the most dangerous among all the main types of construction dust. It is practically found in every construction site, and exposure from it can cause serious pulmonary diseases like silicosis and lung cancer. This prompted the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to regulate exposure from it in every work site.
Other materials that were found to have large amounts of silica are sandstone, drywall, tile, and granite (more on silica dust in a future article).
Not all construction materials are made up of silica. There are those that have very little or no silica content and have lower toxicity. Still, they can be harmful to the health so safety measures should still be observed when working around them. Some of the most common materials that form non-silica dust when disturbed are gypsum, marble, and limestone.
Softwood, hardwood, and certain wood products like MDF, chipboard, and plywood will yield wood dust. Wood dust can cause serious health issues, most common of which is asthma. It can also cause skin and eye irritation and certain pulmonary diseases. Understandably, carpenters are most at risk of wood dust inhalation.