Everything You Need to Know about Dust Monitoring

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According to the world health organization (WHO), around 7 million people die every year just from inhaling fine particles also known as dust. We as humans have evolved enough to make use of different technologies to monitor the number of particles present in the air. Effective dust monitoring units and plans can protect the lives and improve the quality of lives of people residing in dust-ridden zones.

What is dust monitoring?

Dust monitoring deals with the detection and computation of particulate matter (PM) in the air. Particulate matter refers to the liquid droplets and solid particles in the air and their concentration and size are expressed to define it. The particulate matter (PM) details are evaluated so that preventive measures can be applied to keep away the people residing in the location in question.

Each work environment is different which brings separate air monitoring requirements to the table. Different dust monitoring devices offer their own level of accuracy and depth.

How harmful is dust inhalation?

Minute dust particles inhaled unconsciously doesn’t seem harmful at first but it’s an invisible killer. Long-term exposure to particles of less than 2µmbrings about severe diseases like coronary obstructive pulmonary disease, silicosis, black lung disease, and even lung cancers.

What are the different popular methods of dust monitoring?

The devices used to monitor dust in the ambient environment uses these three working principles:

1. High-volume Gravimetric Method

Dust monitors using the gravimetric principle draws in air for a whole day at a constant flow rate through a vent that only allows particle of <100µm diameter. The dust is collected in a pre-weighed filter which is seasoned at constant temperature and humidity. After 24 hours, the filter is weighted under the same temperature-humidity conditions. The weight difference represents the amount of particulate matter present on the filter.

2. Beta Attenuation Monitor (BAM)

In this method of dust monitoring, beta radiation attenuation is used to measure the particle mass density. Ambient air is collected in a paper-band filter and beta ray is brought into contact. The beta count is inversely proportional to the PM mass which is recorded by the detector and the final value determines the concentration.

3. Laser Scattering

The optical particle counter (OPC) is a dust monitoring device made on the principle of light scattering. The device measures particles by illuminating them with laser light at a 90° angle. The reflected light is collected by a mirror and detected by a photo-diode. The resulting signal is transported into a multi-channel size classifier. Here, a pulse height analyzer is set to read each pulse. From the pulse reading, the particle size is matched to calculate the amount of particulate matter. The optical particle counter is the most efficient as they provide quick and accurate readings.

Why dust monitoring is important?

Dust is present everywhere, and the presence of airborne particulates and aerosols possess a threat to health and safety. The troubling factor is that dust is mostly invisible to the naked eye. Smaller particles are more dangerous as they can easily travel to the bottom layer of the lungs.

The presence of dust can cause irritation to the eyes, coughing, sneezing, headaches, and even fatigue, thus reducing the performance of employees. Combining the exposure to dust both indoors and outdoors largely impacts the health of employees. Monitoring dust in a workplace ensures air quality management which ultimately provides a long-term positive impact on the health of the workers. In the 5 points mentioned below, the importance is further discussed:

  • Combustion processes and grinding and cruising activities spray dust into the air. All of these activities are extremely occupational.
  • The term particulate matter refers to aerosols of varied sizes and the smaller particles are extra harmful as they don’t get caught in our nostrils.

Real-time dust monitoring finds out the quality of air and will help to create countermeasures to ensure the safety of the employees.

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