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The Safety Hazards of Carbon Graphite Dust

Updated April 17, 2017

Just like a diamond, graphite is an allotrope of carbon. Even though graphite is a non-metal, it has certain characteristics of metals. For instance, it is a good conductor of electricity. The main use of graphite powder or dust is done in industrial lubrication. The melting point of graphite is high, so it can withstand high temperatures, which is why graphite powder is ideal to be used in machines that emit a lot of heat.

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Formation of Graphite Powder

Graphite, being a naturally occurring form of carbon, forms carbon graphite dust as a natural byproduct. As the graphite is formed usually in flat layers, it traps water and air molecules between them. This is what makes graphite powder such a good lubricant. Unlike other lubricants that are liquids, this lubricant is dry.

Potential Effects on Health

Carbon graphite dust can cause potential damage to your health. If the powder goes inside the respiratory tract, then irritation may be caused and symptoms like dyspnea, palpitation, tightness of chest and coughing may be manifested. On the other hand, chronic inhalation may lead to decreased pulmonary function, lung fibrosis, pneumoconiosis, bronchitis and black sputum. The graphite dust, if it goes into the gastrointestinal tract, may lead to symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting and a feeling of nausea. Carbon graphite dust can also enter the eyes, causing redness and slight irritation. If it comes into contact with the skin, graphite dust may cause mild irritation and reddening.

First Aid Measures

If your eyes come into direct contact with carbon graphite powder, they should immediately be washed with a generous amount of water continuously for a minimum of 15 minutes. Eyelids should be blinked often so that dust particles can get out of the eyes. If irritation persists, medical attention should be sought immediately. Contact lenses must not be worn while handling graphite powder. If the dust causes irritation to the skin, then the skin should be washed with mild soap. Tepid water should be used. If the dust enters the respiratory tract, the person should be moved to fresh air immediately and consult a doctor.

Protection Against Harm

As shields against possible harm from carbon graphite dust, safety goggles can be used, especially if the duration of exposure is high. Gloves should be worn or barrier creams can be used. The work area should be well-ventilated. After handling the powder, wash your hands to prevent further contamination.

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About the Author

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, David Karanja has been writing since 2008. His articles have appeared in newspapers such as “Our Sunday Visitor," “Weekly Citizen” and “People Daily." Karanja holds a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from the University of Nairobi.

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