OSHA scientists aren’t the only ones who know how metal dust hazards can damage the human body.
In 1954, the famous science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote the novella Sucker Bait, the story of an expedition sent to investigate the deaths of an entire colony on an alien planet. Even though the planet appeared to be totally safe for human life and none of the local plants or animals seemed dangerous, the entire colony had died within two years of their arrival.
The reason this seemingly perfect planet was uninhabitable: beryllium.
Isaac Asimov knew that high levels of beryllium in the soil and air was the perfect way to gradually poison the colony without the residents even realizing what was harming them. Inhaling beryllium dust causes an often fatal lung disease called berylliosis. The colony was slowly destroyed by toxic metal dust hazards they didn’t know was killing them.
Beryllium doesn’t just exist in the domain of science fiction, though. Beryllium is often alloyed with iron and aluminum, which makes these metals stronger and lighter. Beryllium is frequently used in aerospace applications because its alloys are lightweight and can tolerate high heat. Beryllium alloys with copper and nickel are used to make tools that don’t spark and can be used near flammable substances.
OSHA regulates beryllium exposure due to the potential for lung disease and its status as a cancer-causing agent (https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/beryllium/). If your dust collection system is protecting your employees from other metal dust and fumes, it should protect them from this hazard as well. Just one more reason why a properly functioning dust collector with filters capable of capturing very fine particulate are a key part of keeping workers healthy.