Dust can be found everywhere in the air, as well as in space. The form of dust we are probably most often exposed to (depending on our lifestyle) is house dust, but almost equally important is the dust outside, which we call atmospheric dust. This too can often be harmful or hazardous to our health and to the environment. Atmospheric dust can be natural or have its origin primarily in human activities, such as industry, mining, etc. One of the most hazardous forms of atmospheric dust is coal dust, produced through coal mining, which poses serious health risks to coal miners and to people exposed to it for an extended period of time, as it can cause various respiratory diseases and conditions.
Some types of atmospheric dust, when in high enough concentration, can also pose a risk of explosion.
Road dust is another common form of atmospheric dust, and it is one of the most common air pollutants. Atmospheric dust that is produced by industrial activities is regulated in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which sets emissions caps on industries whose activities result in the production of dust. The EPA regulations are especially important for dust emissions on construction sites that are in populated (or soon to be populated) residential areas, where residents’ exposure to harmful atmospheric particles can be hazardous to their health, air quality, and general quality of life. Fortunately, there are technologies and methods by which the unintended production of atmospheric dust can be limited, or the dust that is already airborne can be reduced to safe levels.
It is important to stress that atmospheric dust can be quite varied, and based on the geography of the place and the types of human activities as well as the human population density, it can cause different problems and pose different risks to humans and the natural environment. One of the most dangerous types of dust is radioactive dust, often referred to as “nuclear fallout,” which is produced and scattered rapidly over a vast area as a result of a nuclear explosion.