Dust exposure can lead to a wide range of health effects, UK union leaders say.

Union leaders in the UK are calling for urgent action to reduce dangerous dust levels at the workplace, according to a recent report by UKPA.

The union TUC says that current standards for the assessment of dust exposure in factories and offices are inadequate and that exposure to inhalable dust in general and respirable dust in particular can lead to serious health effects.

Inhalable dust describes the larger particles that can be inhaled but are often filtered out by the nose and mouth, while respirable dust is made up of smaller particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs.

In a new guidance document they published, the union warns that dust exposure can lead to cancer of the lungs, throat and nose as well as other lung conditions like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) that involves chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

According to union leaders, official estimates of workplace diseases related to dust are too low.

The TUC said it had studied a range of dusts that are often found in the workplace, including silica, coal dust, talc and kaolin, adding that even at current legal levels, a significant number of workers could be developing reductions in their lung function, with profound results for future health.

Often, it is difficult to trace the origin of a disease, especially in industries with high turnover (like construction), they say.

The document stresses the importance of a good risk assessment at the workplace and outlines steps employers and health and safety representatives can take to protect workers from dangerous dust levels.

Source: UKPA; Download TUC’s guidance document.  

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