Dust Extractors

Dust extraction is something many trades don’t bother with or even think about. They simply say, “why should I bother?” or “I don’t have the time to keep dragging a dust extractor around”. This is true that not enough is being done to prevent possibly long-term illness associated with dust extraction, this could be a result of lack of information for the dangers of substances in different materials and/or proper preventive tips.

The alarming dangers of asbestos have been promoted throughout the population, outlining the illnesses which can be caused by the substance. Unlike the dangers of asbestos, Silica dust (crystalline silica) has not had a wide spread awareness campaign but has recently been gaining exposure of the importance for health safety.

What are the health effects of exposure to silica dust?

The following diseases are caused by excessive exposure to airborne silica dust:

  • Silicosis 
  • Acute silicosis (rapid development after short exposure to high concentrations of silica dust). 
  • Silicotuberculosis (silicosis sufferers are at a higher risk of developing tuberculosis)
  • Lung cancer

Silica dust, along with other atmospheric contaminates, can also cause or exacerbate these diseases:

  • Simple chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic airway obstruction
  • Lung cancer

Silicosis can be disabling or even fatal, the three types of silicosis are as follows:

  1. Chronic/classic silicosis - the most common form and occurs after 15-20 years of moderate to low exposures to respirable crystalline silica.
  2. Accelerated silicosis - which can occur after 5-10 years of high exposure.
  3. Acute silicosis - which can occur after a few months or long as 2 years after exposure to extremely high levels of crystalline silica.

To learn more about the terrible effects of the disease, see this short film from China: Dying to breathe, about workers who contract silicosis after working in gold mines. Crystalline silica also causes cancer of the lungs.

An article on dangers of silica “It’s asbestos version 2,” says Kevin Gee, Milwaukee Tool senior product manager. “A couple of decades ago, we had asbestos identified that, if you got exposed to it and it was airborne, you got things like mesothelioma, “Now it’s silica you get silicosis.” (Equipment world, 2018).

Prevention is the first line of defense

There is a range of products here in Australia that are great for dust extraction, even finer dust particles that can be difficult to extract are no match for some products on the market.

Some big brand tool companies are working to increase the effectiveness of dust extraction for their products which can help to prevent the horrible consequences of exposure to those dangerous materials this includes extraction built into their tools and accessories. Those extraction systems are ideal for those who are constantly working in dangerous environments with possible exposure to harmful materials such as Silica.

Here’s a list of Brands and their dust extraction systems

Dust extraction top 3 benefits

  • Time Saving
  • Tool Protection
  • Health Risk Prevention

October 2017 Cancer Council Targets Silica Dust

Cancer Council Australia called for tradies to be more aware of cancer risks on the job in the light of new estimates that over 230 lung cancer cases in Australia each year are caused by exposure to silica dust in the workplace. About 600,000 Australian workers are exposed to silica dust at work each year, including miners, construction workers, farmers, engineers, bricklayers and road construction workers, as well as those working in demolition.

Terry Slevin, Chair, Occupational and Environmental Cancer Risk Committee Cancer Council Australia, said "Silica is surprisingly common it's found in stone, rock, sand, gravel and clay, as well as bricks, tiles, concrete and some plastic materials. When these materials are worked on or cut, silica is released as a fine dust that's 100 times smaller than a grain of sand. It's so small you can't see it but if you breathe it in, in some cases it can lead to lung cancer."

Mr. Slevin said that it was the responsibility of both employers and employees to act now to reduce the number of silica related lung cancer cases. "Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe place to work. Likewise, those working with silica need to take responsibility for their future health, get informed and protect themselves."

*Further information about silica please refer to the links below:

OHS Reps: http://www.ohsrep.org.au/ohs-in-your-industry/your-industry-education/silica#more
Cancer Foundation: https://www.cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/workplace-cancer/silica-dust.html
EHS Today: http://www.ehstoday.com/industrial-hygiene/are-you-ready-osha-s-new-respirable-crystalline-silica-standard