Construction dust is not just a nuisance - regular and long-term exposure can cause life-changing lung diseases, such as lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, often resulting in permanent disability and, in some situations, the consequences may be fatal.
There are three main types of construction dust:
- silica dust (also known as respirable crystalline silica or RCS) – created when working on silica-containing materials such as concrete, mortar and sandstone;
- wood dust – created when working on softwood, hardwood and wood-based products like MDF and plywood; and
- lower toxicity dusts created when working on materials containing very little or no silica. For example, gypsum (in plasterboard, for instance), limestone, marble and dolomite.
Workers on construction sites have a high risk of developing lung diseases because many common construction tasks can create high dust levels. Such activities include cutting paving blocks and kerbs, chasing concrete and raking mortar, cutting roofing tiles, grinding, soft strip demolition, dry sweeping, cutting and sanding wood and sanding plasterboard joints.