Summary: These Cyclone and Dust Collection Research web pages share more than most ever want to know about fine dust hazards and how to get good fine dust protection and collection. If you just want a quick overview, then you should probably start with my Dust Collection Basics Blog. These folloing pages give you the detail to help you choose, upgrade, set up and maintain your dust collectors, cyclones, ducting, shop vacuums, air cleaners, tools, hoods, filters and downdraft tables for better fine dust collection. These pages share how to inexpensively test your air quality, airflow, and filtering. They share my dust collection solutions that protect my family and me including plans for my very efficient air cleaner and fine dust separating cyclone. All is free for your personal use only. Many find it less trouble and inexpensive to order my cyclone design from Clear Vue Cyclones. These easy solutions let you get good fine dust protection and collection without having to master the air engineering science that air engineering firms who guarantee customer air quality use.
Applicability: Although woodworking dust inspired this site creation, many respiratory doctors now recommend small shop owners and their family members, fiberglass workers, stone finishers, sand blasters, concrete cutters, coffee roasters, granary storage workers, and others with fine dust exposure read and follow the recommendations shared on these pages. Two major commercial dust collection air engineering vendor groups recommend their staff and customers read these pages.
Risks: Many work their whole lives in dust filled shops with no problems, so far too many assume wood dusts pose little risk. We know hemlock, mimosa, oleander, sassafras, yew and other woods are so poisonous they can kill and cause bad nerve damage. Many irritating woods cause rashes and respiratory problems. Some woods such as cocobolo, rosewood, ebony, walnut, etc. are sensitizers meaning they can make almost anyone develop an allergy in some cases in as little as a few hours exposure and land you in the hospital as I did. In addition woodworking makes huge numbers of fine dust particles that have razor sharp edges and sharp often barbed points that damage and scar our respiratory tissues. Each exposure rarely gets noticed unless we get stuffed up or irritated, but the damage builds over time into asthma and lung damage that worsens all kinds of other age related diseases. This long term damage is why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets really tough indoor air quality standards.
Challenge: Most shops that vent their dust collection systems inside build up dangerously high amounts of fine invisible dust. Woodworking makes far too much dust compared to how little it takes to harm our health. Our shop vacuums, air cleaners, dust collectors and cyclone systems miss collecting much of the unhealthiest finest dust. Wood dust lasts nearly forever unless it gets wet. So when we vent our dust collection systems inside the dust that escapes collection, known as fugitive dust keeps building and building. This dust gets launched airborne with the lightest airflows then blows all over to contaminate all shared air. Our particle meters show even very clean looking shops that vent their dust collection systems inside build up so much fine invisible dust that just walking around without doing any woodworking stirs enough dust airborne to fail an EPA air quality test.
Bottom Line: Please do not get overwhelmed and forget your goal is to protect yourself and those close to you from fine dust. Although good fine dust collection takes lots of planning, work and expense it is not that difficult. I strongly recommend good fine dust collection and these pages share how, but until you can install good fine dust collection it is easy and affordable to get good fine dust protection. The best protection is to wear a good properly fit NIOSH approved respirator mask with dual HEPA quality cartridges and work with our main doors open a bit and a strong fan blowing out a side door or window to create a good airflow through our shops to keep the fine dust from building. Our particle counters show for best protection we need to put on our respirator mask and start venting our shop before we start making fine dust and both the mask and fan need to stay on for about a half hour after we stop making fine dust. More protection detail can be found on the Doc's Orders page.