Metal Dust Hazards In Sci-Fi


Metal Dust Hazards In Sci-Fi

OSHA scientists aren’t the only ones who know how metal dust hazards can  damage the human body.  metal dust hazards


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.

Explosive Dust Prevention Is Key

You may have heard about explosive dust before.  You’ve read news about a manufacturing facilities that suffered a catastrophe due to combustible dust ignition.  Did you ever wonder how it happens? How a small collection of dust particles can explode with such tremendous power and scale?  We at Imperial Systems, Inc pose an even greater question:  Is your workplace and employees safe from this risk?

Read this industry alert that was written by the North Carolina Department of Labor Safety and Health Division about the Dangers of Combustible Dust.  It is an excellent learning resource that clearly defines the dangerous and sometimes fatal results of instantaneous dust explosions.

explosive dust test

Imperial’s CMAXX dust collector deflagration testing

Over the years Imperial Systems has posted many blogs about explosive dust dangers. We have the knowledge, the experience  and the right equipment to prevent explosive dust ignition in your facility.  Need more information?  Give one of our professional team members a call today at 800-918-3013.  

To learn even more, check out our past articles on combustible dust dangers.  Knowledge is the real power in prevention.

Working With OSHA To Stop Combustible Dust In Your Facility

Imperial Systems Approach to Dust Collection

Eliminating Fumes And Dust From Your Metalworking Facility

Welding Fumes: Your Toenails Hold Clues


A group of researchers interested in exposure to metals in welding fumes come to your workplace to collect samples. You might think they’d be there to test the air quality or to take samples of fumes or dust. These researchers didn’t come to do any of those things. The only equipment they bring with them: paper envelopes and toenail clippers.

That’s right… these researchers are here for your toenails.

That’s how researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (Grashow et al, 2014) studied the long-term exposure to toxic metals in weld fumes in a group of welders in Massachusetts. The welders provided several toenail samples over a period of time, and the clippings were analyzed.

Some forensics television shows have investigators acquire a  hair sample and test it for poison. This works because many things that get into our bloodstream, including metals, are deposited in our hair and fingernails as they grow.  The researchers chose toenails because they grow more slowly and give a record that covers a longer period of exposure.

welding fumes

So what did they find?

Even among workers who wore respirators, researchers were able to detect lead, manganese, cadmium, nickel, and arsenic. Lead is a well-known health hazard, and you probably don’t need to be told that arsenic isn’t a good thing either. Long-term exposure to manganese is associated with central nervous system problems that can mimic Parkinson’s disease. Cadmium is known to cause cancer, and nickel can cause skin problems and lung irritation.

Respirators are a key part of controlling exposure to welding fumes. These welders, though, were still exposed to enough of these metals that it could be found in their toenails. While it wasn’t within the scope of this research study to determine exactly how workers were exposed, one possibility is that respirators may be worn while welding, but not while doing other work around the shop in places where dust from cutting and welding may have accumulated.

A dust collection system that removes welding fumes and dust from the air completely will prevent  toxic metal particles from accumulating in your work areas. Respirators may prevent inhalation during welding, but if the weld fumes aren’t being removed from the air, workers can still be exposed to it. A system that keeps the air clean for your entire facility doesn’t just protect workers while they’re wearing respirators. It protects all of your workers, all of the time.


Grashow, R. et al (2014). Toenail metal concentration as a biomarker of occupational welding fume exposure. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 11, 397-405.

The Value of Dust Collection Management

Dust collection management is one of the main investments that those in the timber industry must face in the near future.   In fact, Timber Processing Magazine (www.timberprocessing.com), which conducts research on industry production, supply, and investments, notes that many facilities will need to plan for additional equipment needs above and beyond those they have already planned for.

Areas where facilities may need to plan for investments include:

Dust collection management

Complete BRF System Installation

  • Loading equipment
  • Drying kilns
  • Planer mill sorting and packaging
  • Forklifts
  • Conveyers
  • Dust control

Because of the extremely combustible nature of wood production dust and OSHA’s increasingly strict regulations on combustible dust collection management, dust collection equipment is one of several investments that companies in this industry may need to consider.

Modernization of equipment is often essential to streamline production and materials handling. According to the surveys conducted by Timber Processing Magazine, almost 75% of facilities rated their return on investments in 2015 as “good” or “excellent”.

When considering where to put that investment, dust control equipment should definitely be top on the list. Processing more product creates more dust, and nothing can shut your production down faster than a malfunctioning dust collection system or, worse, a fire.

Even if your current dust collection system is handling your dust adequately, equipment such as explosion isolation valves, spark arrestors, and backdraft dampers can be a valuable investment in fire and explosion prevention. Wood processing dust has its own unique demands on dust collection and fire suppression systems, and an experienced systems engineer should be consulted to make sure equipment is optimized for your particular application.

Good news for the timber industry is also good news for manufacturers who produce equipment for this industry. This recent report makes it clear that this industry is alive and well, and that companies are likely to see long-term benefits from investments they make in new equipment.

Aftermarket Customer Service Matters

We hear it every day from customers.  Aftermarket customer service from other companies that sell replacement filters is not always a pleasant experience.   These customers come to us because they’re tired of automated phone menu systems, messages that never get returned, and questions that never get answered. If you’re ready for a better filter purchasing experience, Imperial Systems is the logical choice.

“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. – Damon Richards

This could not be more true of our philosophy.  While you know that Imperial Systems custom-designs and manufactures the best dust collectors in the industry, you should also know that we  have a dedicated aftermarket team ready to assist you. Whether you need spark traps, replacement airlock parts, or new DeltaMAXXTM filters, our team will be with you all the way.  From finding the right part to making sure you’re satisfied with your order.

When you work with Imperial Systems, you’re not just a number, you are a priority! One of our aftermarket customer service professionals will manage your account, and will make sure you always receive a prompt, personal, and helpful response to all of your needs. You’ll always know exactly who to call.  You won’t have to explain what you need every time you call us because we already know who you are!

Here are a just a few of our aftermarket professionals committed to providing you with the best service in the industry.

Aftermarket customer service team

Rebecca, Justin, and Patrick

When you call us for your filters or other aftermarket needs, one of us will be there, in person, ready to return your calls, answer your questions, and solve your problems with the kind of personal attention your business deserves. You treat your customers like they matter. Come and work with the aftermarket sales team who treats you like YOU matter.  Call today at 800-918-3013!