Did you know that coal miners inhale about 1,000 grams of dust in their lifetimes? Incredibly, when their lungs are examined after death, no more than 40 grams of dust are found. It means their lungs evicted about 960 grams of dust – that’s over two pounds! The respiratory system is aggressively equipped to reject dust, but it can’t prevent all damage. In today’s blog, we’re going to look at the respiratory system, the damages that particles inflict on it, and how a baghouse can function as a giant lung for your business.

What does the respiratory system do with dust?

When your employees (or yourself) work an eight-hour shift in your facility, everyone breathes in dust. The last thing you want is that dust getting deep into your lungs and damaging the delicate air sacs responsible for transferring life-giving oxygen to your body (and removing the poisonous carbon dioxide).

  • Defense 1: The nose 

    • Your nose is a very effective first filter. It catches a majority of the larger particles and expels them every so often with sneezes or nose-blowing. If you trim your nose hairs, don’t get too carried away. The hairs are your friends!
  • Defense 2: Mucus membranes 

    • As air travels down your windpipe, it passes over cells that produce mucus. A majority of the dust particles are caught in the mucus and moved upward by hair-like cilia. You either cough or swallow the particles, and they cause no trouble.
  • Defense 3: Macrophages

    • If any particles get past the mucus membranes, they face cells designed specifically to neutralize them. These cells are called macrophages. They engulf the particles and transport them to the cilia, where they are moved up the windpipe and coughed out or swallowed with the rest of the dust. If the particle is too large, the macrophage system will fail and the particles will gather freely.
  • Defense 4: Proteins

    • When it comes to dust deep within the lungs, the lungs produce a special type of protein that attaches itself to the dust and neutralizes the particles.

What kinds of dust does your body deal with?dreamstime_xxl_24186592

There are two main families of dust in the world: organic and inorganic. Organic dusts are produced by processing plants and animals. For example, if you run a grain-handling operation, your employees are exposed to organic particles of plants as well as fungi and microbes. Organic dusts can infect them and make them sick.  Inorganic dusts come from processing non-living materials like metals, rocks, and soil. People often run into silica, coal, and asbestos dust.

What damages does dust cause?

  • Scar Tissue – Silica, asbestos, and beryllium dust can be engulfed by macrophages, but when this happens, the macrophages die and emit toxic substances that create useless scar tissue within the lung. Scar tissue is stiff and it greatly impedes the lungs’ function.
  • Entering the Bloodstream – Some dust particles dissolve through the air sacs and into the blood stream. They are carried around the body and can end up affecting the kidneys, brain, and other organs.

As you can see, people consistently exposed to dust can end up with significant damage. The good news is, air filtration systems can make sure damaging dust doesn’t even have the chance to get into their noses! Read our next blog to learn more!