An Alloy is a mixture of metals or a mixture of a metal and another element. Alloys are defined by a metallic bonding character.  An alloy may be a solid solution of metal elements or a mixture of metallic phases.

Alloys are used in a wide variety of applications. In some cases, a combination of metals may reduce the overall cost of the material while preserving important properties. In other cases, the combination of metals imparts synergistic properties to the constituent metal elements such as corrosion resistance or mechanical strength. Examples of alloys are steel, solder, brass, pewter, duralumin, phosphor bronze and amalgams.

Approximately 35 metals are of major concern in regard to occupational exposure. Two thirds of them can cause health hazards if not properly handled and may result in well-defined toxic effects in humans. Some metals, even in small doses, may cause both immediate and chronic poisoning. Damage may involve disturbances of the blood composition or nervous system, or injury to the liver or kidneys. Long-term exposure to certain metal compounds may cause cancer. Allergic reactions may result from repeated long term contact with some metals and metal compounds.

Mercury, lead, nickel, chromium, manganese, zinc, copper, and cobalt are used in industry and are known to cause adverse health effects both as the metal and as metallic compounds.

As a rule, acute poisoning results from inhalation of dust, fume or vapour dispersed in the workplace air. Intake of some metals and their compounds is also possible through the skin.

Exposure to metal dust, unfortunately, is common with some occupations like mining, factory work, and welding. Welding can be especially worrisome because it produces vapors that, when inhaled, send the alloy directly into the lungs in a “super absorption” status where it is released to the blood and distributed to the bones and brain. Researchers have repeatedly examined the consequence of inhaling metal vapors and the results are grim. Effects on memory and concentration have been cited.

Alloy Dust is Combustible and is an Explosion Hazard:

When most people think of controlling dust in the workplace, they think of taking steps to avoid inhaling dusts to prevent health problems. However, the accumulation of combustible dusts in the workplace can lead to far greater consequences. As seen in recent years, neglect of housekeeping and improper handling of combustible dusts can lead to property damage, injuries and loss of life.

During fabricating operations, metal or alloy fines may be generated by such activities as grinding, polishing, sawing, cutting, sanding or scratch brushing and at least some of them will be fine enough to be potentially explosive. The term “dust” or “powder” is frequently used to describe such particles.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines a combustible dust as “a combustible particulate solid that presents a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or some other oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations, regardless of particle size or shape.” In general, combustible particulates having an effective diameter of 420 μm or smaller, as determined by passing through a U.S. No. 40 Standard Sieve, are generally considered to be combustible dusts. However, agglomerates of combustible materials that have lengths that are large compared to their diameter (and will not usually pass through a 420 μm sieve) can still pose a deflagration hazard. Therefore, any particle that has a surface area to volume ratio greater than that of a 420 μm diameter sphere should also be considered a combustible dust. The vast majority of natural and synthetic organic materials, as well as some metals, can form combustible dust. The NFPA’s Industrial Fire Hazards Handbook states, “any industrial process that reduces a combustible material and some normally non-combustible materials to a finely divided state presents a potential for a serious fire or explosion.”

Suggested Industrial Vacuums for Alloy Recovery

PrestiVac HEPAPlus* Vacuums are specifically designed to safely vacuum toxic dusts. Equipped with a Certified Absolute HEPAPlus*filter with an efficiency of 99.995% on 0.2 micron so there is no risk of exposure or contamination for the operator or the environment. These vacuums are tested for absolute filtration. Testing Method: IEST RP-CC034.3. H14. MIL-STD 282 / A.S.T.M. - D2986-91.  MPPS method EN 1822.

PrestiVac Explosion Proof/Dust Ignition Protected Vacuums are designed to safely vacuum explosive, flammable, combustible conductive* dusts. Our Explosion Proof/Dust Ignition Protected Vacuums are completely grounded and static dissipating because they are built entirely with non-sparking metals and do not have any painted components so there is no risk of fire or explosion from a spark or static build up. All the electrical components, including the motor and starter are totally enclosed so there is no source of ignition. Our explosion proof vacuum cleaners comply with NFPA 484 guidelines and are an effective tool for good housekeeping practise as per OSHA.

Which Industries are at Risk with Metal or Alloy Dust?