Composite dust is relevant in three common composite industries including polymers, metals and ceramics. Composites can be found in many products from skateboards to space shuttles, a chemical that is typically a combination of chemicals to produce strength, lighter weight and corrosion resistance.
There are currently no specific OSHA standards related to health in relation to composites however, regulations must be followed for the byproducts created from the use of composites in the manufacturing process.
The risk of exposure to composites can be low or high depending on the smoke, fume, debris or dust created from the production process that utilizes composites. The way we look at it, your better to be safe than sorry—and ensuring your shop air is filtered and ventilated in the right way is a major step toward achieving this.
While the chemicals used, and the byproducts created from composite manufacturing can vary, there are some common chemicals found in composite manufacturing that you should be aware of as a business and an employee.
Silica dust is a very small particle and is common to construction sites, soil, sand, concrete, masonry, rock, granite and other landscaping materials. It’s created by cutting, grinding, drilling or disturbing these types of materials. You can’t see the particles, but they have been known to cause lung disease and lung cancer—and it only takes a small amount or silica to create negative health outcomes.
Carbon fiber dust is an element produced from carbon fiber—a very strong yet lightweight substance used across manufacturing plants. The risks of carbon fiber come when they are irritated through cutting, machining or mechanical finishing and released into the air. If they are not contained and controlled, they can stick to the skin, causing irritation to not only the skin, but the eyes and the lungs.
Carbon nanotubes are used to strengthen materials and have strong magnetic, electronic and mechanical properties to them. Inhaling carbon nanotubes is dangerous, and research has shown that it could be as detrimental as inhaling asbestos.
Resin dust comes from the material resin that is used in residential and commercial insulation, production of models and other industries. The dust is created once the resin is molded into shape and sanding or cutting of the resin begins. The dust may cause sever eye irritation and skin redness, swelling and blistering. It can also cause risks if inhaled as it irritates the respiratory tract and contributes to asthma and other lung related complications.
Combustible dust is fine particles that can present an explosion hazard when suspended in air under certain conditions. They can be created from abrasive blasting, cutting, grinding, polishing or crushing of materials. They can also be created from mixing, sifting, screening dry materials or the buildup of dried residue from processing wet materials.
Rather than take a chance with these common composite dust particles, put the appropriate precautions in place to contain, minimize and eliminate in hazards—for you and your employees.