Can Breathing Metal Dust Hurt You?

Those exposed to metal dust may be at a higher risk of developing chronic lung conditions.

Prolonged exposure to metal dust like steel, iron and cobalt can result in lung conditions such as siderosis and black lung.

How Does Metal Dust Damage The Lungs?

The lungs are generally great at protecting against foreign particles, but over time and being exposed to great amounts of harmful material, their natural defense will fail, leading to inflammation and scarring.

Eventually, those afflicted by lung disease caused by breathing metal dust may find it difficult to breathe.

When it becomes too much for the lungs to handle, metal dust particles will settle in pulmonary tissue, often in the air sacs and airways, where they cause damage from within.

Lung conditions commonly associated with long-term respiratory exposure to metal dust are types of pneumoconiosis – a category of interstitial lung diseases specifically related to breathing mineral dust. These include:

  • Siderosis – also known as “welder’s lung” or “silver polisher’s lung”, which is caused by breathing in iron particle dust or fumes.
  • Black lung – or “coal worker’s pneumoconiosis”, is an occupational lung disease that commonly afflicts miners and others inhaling coal dust on a regular basis. This is due to the presence of toxic metals like lead, mercury, nickel, tin, cadmium, mercury, antimony and arsenic.

Read More: 7 Ways To Clear Your Lungs After Inhaling Dust

Preventing Metal Dust Damage To Your Lungs

Prevention is one of the best ways to avoid complications from inhaling metal dust. Personal protective equipment like respirators, when used by those working around heavy metals and minerals, can help keep these particles from entering the body and lungs and causing long-term damage.

Studies have shown that with more frequent mask usage comes a lower incidence of reduced lung function. In addition, anybody working with dust-producing metals should make sure to dispose of any external clothing.

Historically, those who carried metal particles home with them on their clothing have had the greatest risk of long-term damage – as well as lung damage of family members, including children.

It’s essential, as well, for workplaces to provide proper ventilation. And finally, regular checkups with a doctor can help spot early signs of lung damage.