combustible metal dust

Dust is everywhere. Our homes, workplaces, and nature are all common sources of dust. On the surface, dust may seem like just a nuisance, but, many don’t realize that it can also be dangerous. As a leading manufacturer of industrial dust collection solutions, we know a thing or two about dust and the hazards it can pose. To help you better understand dust and its effects, we have answered a few questions that we receive frequently.

What is dust?

Dust consists of tiny particles of dry, solid matter. It begins as airborne particles but eventually settles on flat surfaces. Dust can be produced virtually anywhere and falls into three major categories: environmental, household, and industrial. Note: wet, airborne particles are called “mist.”

How is dust made?

To understand how dust is made, you need to take into account where it came from.

  • Household dust, generally found in the home, is made up of human skin cells, fabric, dirt, hair, pollen, living and dead dust mites, food, and more.
  • Environmental dust is typically made up of particles related to the local environment, such as plant pollen, dirt, animal fur, dead insects, mites, and more.
  • Industrial dust is a byproduct of a manufacturing or maintenance facility’s operations.

What is industrial dust?

Industrial dust, also known as process dust, is generated during a facility’s manufacturing or processing operations such as cutting, drilling, grinding, or sawing. Process dust can also come from materials, chemicals, or ingredients used in the production process such as flour, sugar, and pharmaceuticals. Operations like welding and plasma cutting also produce tiny particles, but that is generally called “fumes” or “smoke.”

Can dust be dangerous to your health?

Yes, household and environmental dust can trigger symptoms of asthma and allergies. Industrial dust, however, can be far more dangerous. It can contain metals and chemicals that can be harmful if inhaled or contacted. Also, some process dusts are combustible, which can trigger workplace explosions and fire if not handled properly. Combustible dust must be collected and properly contained to ensure worker health and safety.

What is an industrial dust collector? camfil gold series x-flo industrial dust collector

An industrial dust collector gathers nuisance and hazardous dusts and fumes from the air before it can settle on surfaces. Many facilities use these collectors to keep process dust and fumes in check. However, correctly designing and sizing your dust collector is critical to protecting workers and expensive equipment from hazardous dust. In addition, be sure to properly maintain your dust collector with the right kind of air filters.

What is a cartridge dust collector?

A cartridge dust collector is an industrial dust collector that uses cartridge-style filters to collect and filter dust. As the filter cartridges become loaded with dust, the collector automatically cleans them using a pulse of air. The pulse of air expels the dust from the cartridge sending it into a disposal bin called a hopper. This process greatly extends the life of the filter cartridges, but they eventually need to be replaced with new ones.

Does it matter what kind of filter cartridge I use?

Not all filters are created equal—factors like dust size, shape, and combustibility help to determine the right type of filter. Testing a sample of dust is the only way to get an accurate assessment of its properties. Dust testing is available at Camfil APC as well as independent laboratories and equipment suppliers. Extended-life filters using Camfil’s unique HemiPleat Technology stay cleaner and last longer than standard filters, resulting in fewer changeouts and more uptime.

How does an explosion in a dust collector occur?

It isn’t always possible to prevent the explosion, so your focus should be on mitigating an explosion that occurs. OSHA has strict requirements for any dust collector that handles combustible dust. Deflagration protection such as explosion venting, isolation valves or safety monitoring filters is mandatory.  Furthermore, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 68 Standard on Explosion Protection by Deflagration Venting provides strict and mandatory requirements for dust collection applications involving explosive dusts.

How do I know if dust is combustible?

Combustible dusts can be organic or metallic. Using certain ASTM test methods, you can test and determine if your particular dust is explosive. “Kst” is used to denote the explosive power of dust and the rate of pressure rise. Any dust with a Kst value greater than “0” is considered to be potentially explosive. Common combustible dusts include:

combustible dust

Grain is a common combustible dust

  • Flour
  • Grain
  • Sugar
  • Coal
  • Wood
  • Rubber
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Pesticides

Is metal dust more combustible?

If your dust is considered metal, your facility is at a higher risk for a combustible dust explosion. Many metal dusts are highly combustible and can increase the chances of an explosion in your dust collector. Make sure your dust collection system is sized correctly and has the proper filters and protection devices to mitigate the risk of an explosion.

Is dust burnable?

Burnable dust poses a higher risk for a combustible dust explosion in a dust collector. Even a small amount of dust can have severe consequences. If you don’t know the answer to this question, you need to find out so you can adequately mitigate combustible dust hazards. We recommend getting your dust tested at a reputable third-party lab.

What additional dust safety measures can I take?

There are many optional safety features available for industrial dust collectors like Camfil’s Gold Series X-Flo. Safety options include features like:

  • Secure doors
    explosion venting for a dust collector

    An explosion isolation valve used on the Camfil GSX industrial dust collector

  • Explosion venting and fire suppression
  • Explosion tested low volume discharge
  • Sprinkler systems
  • Fire retardant filters

To learn more about the Gold Series X-Flo’s optional safety features, watch this video.

Is it ok to store collected dust in the hopper?

No, dust should never be stored in the hopper as it can pose a serious deflagration risk. The hopper is designed to funnel dust from the dust collector to a specifically designed storage bin. In addition, some hoppers are self-dumping and provide easy dust disposal while protecting against unwanted dust leakage between the collector and hopper.

How do I know which dust collection system is right for me?

Dust collection systems should be designed and installed with your specific operation in mind. At Camfil APC, we realize that a dust collection system is both a significant investment and a critical tool for facility compliance and worker safety. Our state-of-the-art dust collection test facility can provide the essential data you need to invest wisely. We perform a battery of tests on your dust sample, analyze your performance requirements, and use this information to develop the right system to support your needs.

To learn more about Camfil APC’s dust testing services, click here.

For more information on containing dust and fumes in your facility, contact a Camfil APC product expert.