Demolition Sites' Dusts Not a Health Concern, UK Lab Confirms

A study for the Health and Safety Executive finds low concentrations of respirable dust and respirable crystalline silica at the edges of construction sites, although the authors say it also confirms sites' dust control is poor.

A study conducted by the 100-year-old Health and Safety Laboratory has confirmed there is little threat to human health from dusts produced by large demolition sites. The authors of the "Levels of respirable dust and respirable crystalline silica at construction sites" study, which was funded by the Health and Safety Executive, said they found low concentrations of respirable dust and respirable crystalline silica at the edges of construction sites, but they confirmed sites' dust control is poor.

It is a small pilot study utilizing only 48 air samples taken in summer 2009 from seven sites where demolition, general construction, block cutting, and road building were taking place. The authors noted that heavy rain hampered their sampling work, and an economic crisis at the time prevented many projects from progressing.

Dust from almost all of the surveyed sites migrated into public areas. Air concentrations for respirable crystalline silica at boundaries of the sites were low and rarely exceeded 10 percent of the current workplace exposure limit of 0.1 mg per cubic meter, according to the report. This means people living very near large demolition sites would have a measurable but very low exposure to respirable crystalline silica, and thus there is little danger of a health impact on them, the authors concluded.

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