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The effects of breathing in cast iron dust

Updated July 19, 2017

Although there are no health hazards from iron in solid form, prolonged or repeated exposure to dust and fumes from processing the material can harm your health. Follow safe industrial hygiene practices and always wear protective equipment when handling this material.

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Composition of Cast Iron

Cast iron can be more than 90 per cent iron, and most of the dust or fumes will be iron or iron oxide. It also contains about 2 per cent carbon, as well as smaller amounts of manganese, chromium, copper, nickel, phosphorus and silicon.

Working with Cast Iron

Castings that have not been cleaned may contain embedded silica, which can cause serious conditions such as lung cancer. Dust produced during machining, grinding or welding of cast iron may produce airborne particulates that require either ventilation or a dust and fume respirator that meets National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) standards.

Acute Health Effects

Acute, or short-term, health effects of inhaling cast iron dust include irritation to the lungs and the mucus membrane of the throat. If you suspect you have inhaled cast iron dust, move away from the source of the dust.

Chronic Health Effects

Chronic, or long-term, health effects of inhaling cast iron dust can include a condition called pneumosiderosis (also referred to as siderosis or Welder's lung), which shows up as tiny specks in a chest X-ray. Symptoms include shortness of breath and coughing.

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About the Author

William Vogel specializes in new art, old architecture and contemporary music. Originally from Chicago, he earned a B.A. in art history from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, as well as an M.S. in historic preservation from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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