This year has seen Air Matters visiting numerous sites with dust issues. Dust seems so “ordinary” that we sometimes forget about the health effects it can have. But dust is not just a nuisance, it can seriously damage your health. Regularly breathing in dusts over a long time can cause life-changing lung diseases including cancer. Some dusts cause skin irritation and sensitization, some may cause eye damage and some may even cause problems if they get into the digestive system

To understand the risk to health from dust exposure, a risk assessment is usually needed and should include:

  • information on the hazardous nature of the dust. Does it contain silica or asbestos? Does the dust come from hard wood or soft wood?
  • the size of the particles that make up the dust. Are the particles able to be inhaled (inhalable dust) or taken down into the lungs (respirable dust)?
  • the type of exposure. (Is the dust inhaled, affecting the skin (dermal) or causing health effects from ingestion?
  • how the exposure occurs?
  • details of the controls to be used.
  • and if appropriate, arrangements for emergency procedures.

Sometimes air sampling may be needed to find out the level of exposure and assist in the risk assessment.

WorkSafe NZ also have some useful information on various kinds of dust and some control ideas. Information can be found at

If you have concerns or questions about dust exposure. We can help you measure the exposure and assess the risk.