Before students begin the term and step into a ceramics classroom at Portland Community College's Sylvania Campus in Oregon, Ceramics Lab Technician Mandy Stigant mixes all the shop glazes. She spends hours during this process, which includes lifting 50-pound bags and filling bins with hazardous materials, exposing her to harmful dust.
The department teaches students about ceramic art, how to hand-build ceramics, how to use fire kilns and how to mix glazes themselves. When mixing dry, raw materials, Stigant uses three air cleaners manufactured by Air Impurities Removal Systems (AIRS) in the mixing room to remove particulates from the air. Never more than two feet away, the cleaners' extractor arms are positioned directly over the containers where Stigant dumps the raw glazing materials.
Without an air purification system, Stigant and the 500 students who take classes in the ceramics department each year might be at risk for developing harmful health effects. The liability of not having the proper respiratory protection for ceramics workers and students is huge as mixing the glaze involves exposure to oxides, metal colorants and silica, which could cause cancer.
"Silicosis is kind of the most common one that people get if they're not protecting themselves," Stigant said. "It's worse for people than smoking. It's not just that you're getting dust particles in your lungs where they don't belong, but some of these chemicals are toxic in their dry state."
The ceramics studio has 130 people in the same room at any time who may be exposed to these chemicals, requiring the college to implement a solution that can extract dust quickly and easily.
Using air cleaning systems for dust removal in college settings to protect students from the health effects of dry chemicals for glazing is extremely effective. For example, Stigant employs the Extract-All 981-2B model. This air purification model includes long extractor arms, a switch-on vent and a cylindrical canister at the top for removing air impurities like dust.
Stigant said even the dustiest part of her job – when she has to cut bags open and dump them into the bins – is no match for the Extract-All 981 system. This air filtration solution can clean up the air filled with dust and potentially cancer-causing materials in two minutes.
Stigant also spoke of the usability of the air cleaners, saying that the machines are simple and effective, and that the extractor arms are long and flexible, which helps to position them wherever she needs them. The Extract-All 981 system offers the college flexibility in more ways than one as the air cleaners are easy to maintain and fix because replacement parts are readily available.
"It's easy to take the canister off and put a new one on," Stigant said. "It's just a nice feature to have a piece of equipment that's easy to fix if something starts going wrong. It's a pretty intuitive machine and well-designed."