Indoor Air Quality Up Against The Bricks

Say no to indoor air pollution by using proven dust extraction systems to achieve clean air.

Indoor Air Quality Up Against The Bricks 1

When one thinks of early American landmarks, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate, Maryland’s State House in Annapolis, and the US Capitol in Washington, DC, are among the many national colonial period treasurers that come to mind. Not only are the structures themselves significant for their history and longevity, but so, too, are the resources used to construct them. The fact that these buildings have literally stood the test of time speaks to the durability of their primary building material: brick.

Other than automation, brick production has not changed significantly in the over 5000 years of its existence. Made from clay and shale, two of the most globally plentiful resources, brick is a result of vitrification, which is the chemical process of clay and shale fusing together by heat. The full process is uncomplicated and easy to understand. Once the raw materials are extracted from the earth, they are blended then grinded and milled in preparation for molding into shapes. After forming and shaping, the composite is dried to remove moisture before firing at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is when the process of vitrification takes place.

Though straightforward, the practice of brick making is not without indoor air quality health risks posed to those involved in its production. The preparation phase of brick making creates the most significant hazardous conditions. Grinding and milling produces a crystalline powder resulting from the silica, which is an element in the clay. The fine dust particles can be inhaled if proper extraction methods are not used to eliminate the particulates. (1) This scenario can create compromised indoor air quality. Occupational exposure to “dirty” dust and subsequent inhalation can cause upper respiratory tract symptoms such as throat discomfort, chronic cough and phlegm. In addition, studies have shown there is a high prevalence of chest tightness and eye irritation among workers who are exposed in the workplace. (2)

But by far, the worst occupational illness that can affect workers in the brick manufacturing industry is silicosis, a disease for which there is no cure; a disease that causes the scarring of the lungs which leads to lung cancer as well as respiratory failure that can end in death. (3) No cure is available and treatment options are minimal.

According to the CDC, the type of silicosis a worker can become infected with will depend on the airborne concentration level of crystalline silica. These types are:

Chronic Silicosis – usually occurs after 10+ years of exposure at relatively low concentrations

Accelerated Silicosis – develops within 5-10 years after the initial exposure of high concentrations

Acute Silicosis – occurs where exposure concentrations are the highest and can cause symptoms to develop within the range of weeks-5 years after the initial exposure (5)

Fortunately, silicosis is preventable if proper preemptive measures are taken. OSHA recommendations for inhalation prevention include providing engineering controls whenever feasible. (4) Such preventative steps would include employing work practices that control dust exposures and using local dust extraction and ventilation systems.

At Air Systems Inc., we help our customers in the brick manufacturing industry by identifying areas of potential risk and supplying them with top notch products to implement their safety programs. Contact us today for a free estimate with one of our skilled and experienced clean air specialists.