The Threat From Particulates, It Gets Worse
As if the known dangers of exposure to particulates weren’t bad enough, new research is showing that long-term exposure to ambient air pollution is associated with a far wider range of diseases than previously thought.
Not only are 1.4 million people in the UK reporting ‘lung or breathing problems that were caused or made worse by work,’ and 12,000 people dying every year due to occupational lung disease, evidence is mounting to show that airborne pollution also causes dementia, strokes and skin cancer.
The study, conducted in the USA and first published in the journal Stroke is titled “Long-Term Exposure to Fine Particulate Matter, Residential Proximity to Major Roads and Measures of Brain Structure“.
Examining the brains of more than 900 people over 60 years old, it revealed that long-term exposure to fine dust causes both brain atrophy (brain shrinkage) and leads to an increased risk of stroke and other disease.
Implications for Business Too
Not only is this news alarming for those who live near busy roads, it also draws attention to the added dangers faced by those working in conditions, and with materials, they may have previously thought safe.
For example welders who, despite now using supposedly less dangerous materials and working in spaces where local exhaust ventilation (LEV) is employed, seem to be vulnerable to a far wider range of illnesses than they might have thought.
As the report highlighted, even limited exposure of fine dust particles can lead to the heightened risk of cerebrovascular disease and cognitive impairment.
Benjamin Howell on the Fabricator.com says, ‘at the nanolevel, invisible to the human eye, the concentration of particulate matter can pose a great risk to welders. Studies show that welding fume particles are mostly smaller than 0.1 micrometer, which makes nearly all welding fume particles respirable. They can penetrate deep into the alveolate region of the lungs during inhalation and remain firmly fixed there.’
It’s not all bad news though.
The First Step Towards Change, is to Recognise You Have a Problem
By revealing far greater and far wider reaching dangers than previously acknowledged, the new research at least means that the important issue of how best to protect people from damaging particulates is starting to get the attention it deserves.
The sheer weight of evidence amassing from the likes of The Journal of Cleaner Production, The British Medical Journal, and Harvard is forcing the hand of governments, regulatory bodies and employers to take the necessary steps to protect not just their workers, but every one of us exposed to dangerous airborne pollutants.
And about time too.
A Preemptive Strike on Harm
What if a threat could be detected before it even became a threat? What if you could be alerted to the presence of even the smallest of damaging airborne particulates before they had the chance to damage health?
Leading H&S expert John Cairns says:
“The best thing is to detect the hazard before you’re exposed to the hazard. Before you’re exposed to the hazard or a high concentration. You can get the hell out of there, or with the way this new technology works you can set off ventilation systems to clear the area.
The whole ethos behind the H&S Exec is to reduce the risk to as low as is reasonably practicable. I think the XD One is adding to that – it’s enhancing the safety system.”
You can read much more from John in my eBook:
Hidden In Plain Sight – Managing the threat of dust in EVERY workplace. How New Dust Detection Technology Helps H&S Professionals Apply the Hierarchy of Controls.
Grab a copy here.
Or drop us a message to find out more about our work to help organisations like yours protect your people from the threat of damaging dust particulates.
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