The Dangers of Dust

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Industrial hygienist Monona Rossol talks about the hazards of dust, and what chemicals and toxins are present in dust found in your home and in factories. A lot of dust is actually flammable—cotton dust, grain dust in silos, sawdust, and coal dust—that can be ignited just with static electricity. Rossol is President/founder of Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety, Inc. She also is the Health and Safety Director for Local 829 of the United Scenic Artists, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Her most recent book is Pick Your Poison: How Our Mad Dash to Chemical Utopia Is Making Lab Rats of Us All.



Monona Rossol

Comments [26]

Tom from New York

You spoke of dust from filling metals. Would you say that there's dust in using steel wool in washing steel cooking pots since this is metal to metal contact?

Aug. 18 2014 12:05 AM
George from Ft Green, Brookyn

I’m going through a home renovation and living in the space while the work is done. Recently I have developed a cough and chest congestion from the dust produced while breaking into walls to take them down, and more recently, the cutting of holes in the ceiling for the placement of recessed lighting. My townhouse was constructed in 2003 so I'm not worried about asbestos, but what SHOULD I be worried about and what precautions should I be taking. Occasionally I do wear a mask but it’s so uncomfortable that I eventually remove it.


Aug. 12 2014 10:15 PM
Amy from Manhattan

To add to Matt's q. on diatomaceous earth, what's the best way to dispose of it safely, so it won't be a threat to beneficial organisms or lead to any other hazard? (I know this isn't exactly about *industrial* hygiene, but I hope Ms. Rossol can answer it.)

Aug. 12 2014 10:13 PM
tom from astoria

A question for Monona:

Which mask do you recommend for aerosol glue? I use it in small amounts and have the NIOSH Organic Chemical filters #3411in a respirator.

also, with saw dust and cleaning does the 3M dust mask work alright?

Aug. 12 2014 12:45 PM

OSHA does some good but has a tendency to come up with elaborate and cumbersome rules and ignore real problems. Maybe because they know there job security depends on big fines for entities that are burdened the elaborate rules (US Post Office for instance) and avoid flac from politicians over rules that effect powerful commercial in their districts.

Aug. 12 2014 12:45 PM
cynth from suffolk, ny

I have been using dusts of various kinds for years in my drawings. I apply the colored dusts to the paper and use Spectra Fix--milk casein and denatured grain alcohol--as a fixative.
The dusts are made from powdered mica. I have also used aluminum dust in the same way.

My question is: How flammable are these drawings? Should I throw them away? I am concerned about the spontaneous combustion of these drawings as they hang on a wall!

Aug. 12 2014 12:45 PM
Matt from Brooklyn

With the epidemic of bed bugs is diatomaceous earth (food grade) safe. From personal use, it's the only thing that works,. Please help.

Aug. 12 2014 12:43 PM
stephanie from rockland county

I'm a professional fiber artist. I work alone in a small studio and use a wool carding machine daily. Would a machine like this produce enough dust to be a health hazard?

Aug. 12 2014 12:42 PM

Great Conversation and wonderful intelligent dialog Ms Rossol! Thank You for your informative ability to make us understand the realities of the "rootin shootin" important need for the education, the safe practices, and enforcement of hazardous dust.

Aug. 12 2014 12:42 PM

What about Kitty Litter

Aug. 12 2014 12:36 PM
Michael from Manhattan from Morningside Heights

Lots of news lately on urban pollution, particularly concerning particles less than 2 microns in size. Can your guest comment on the dangers of city pollution, as well as the nature of indoor pollution, which some claim is even more dangerous than outdoor pollution?

Thanks in advance. Great show as usual!

Aug. 12 2014 12:34 PM
matthw chapamn


Aug. 12 2014 12:33 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I didn't know some makeup used titanium dioxide. How different is that from the titanium dioxide used to whiten some vegan cheeses (& called "a naturally occurring mineral" on the labels)? (I called in to ask about that on an earlier show of Leonard's, & the guest said it wasn't safe in food.)

Aug. 12 2014 12:32 PM
JK from Sunset Park

I work in Sunset Park in the Warehouse Section, and your guest is scaring me. Makerbot is on the other block, and not to mention the many other factories and such. I guess we're all doomed no matter what.

Aug. 12 2014 12:32 PM
john from office

What about cat litter????

Aug. 12 2014 12:30 PM
h from brooklyn

what about powder makeup base with spf?

Aug. 12 2014 12:30 PM
pina from Plainfield

How about silicon. How safe is it use in baking?

Aug. 12 2014 12:29 PM
Nancy Lorence from Brooklyn

Your guest doesn't seem concerned about sending the dust out into the air through exhaust pipes....yes, it would protect people in the work space, but it would seem that wouldn't be good for air quality in general.

Aug. 12 2014 12:28 PM
Jo-Ann Skiena

are there concerns about levels of silica in powders and many cosmetics, such as the Bare Essentials products

Aug. 12 2014 12:25 PM
Jose Feliciano from NYC

I routinely sharpened the blades of my lawn mower with an electric grinder which tends to create alot of dust. How can I safely perform this procedure. I usually sharpen the blades outdoors and where saftey goggles.

Aug. 12 2014 12:23 PM
Jose Feliciano from NYC

I routinely sharpened the blades of my lawn mower with an electric grinder which tends to create alot of dust. How can I safely perform this procedure. I usually sharpen the blades outdoors and where saftey goggles.

Aug. 12 2014 12:23 PM
Lora Myers from Brooklyn, NY

I'm a potter. How dangerous is dust from clay?

Aug. 12 2014 12:22 PM
tom from astoria

Do the 3M commondust masks work for saw dust?

Aug. 12 2014 12:20 PM
Amy from Manhattan

What can be done about a metal/metal-oxide fire? Just get everyone out & wait for the fire to run out of fuel?

And why isn't OSHA moving on standards for metal dust, esp. if they've been pressured on it for 8 years?

I think the "fab" in "fab labs" is short for "fabrication."

Aug. 12 2014 12:18 PM
Roshen from Midtown

Fab Lab = Fabrication Lab

Aug. 12 2014 12:18 PM
tom from astoria

Im a professional artist who used to love to use damar varnish/ linseed oil mixtures but that needs turpentine. So Ive changed to mineral spirits, but Im not sure that Gamsol -- a low odor mineral spirits -- is safe.

And what about acrylics ? Don't they have some fumes?

Aug. 12 2014 12:17 PM

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