Dealing with Dust

When installing industrial insulation, dust is almost always a given– regardless of what type of material is being used. For this reason, most manufacturers have personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines they recommend for installers who handle their insulation products. These guidelines usually include long sleeves, pants, safety glasses, gloves, and a dust mask, and they are in place to help prevent nuisance dust from causing temporary, mechanical irritation for the installers.

That said, some insulations can be exceptionally dusty. For example, some facility managers have implemented additional PPE requirements that include a full protective suit for the installer and/or tenting over the installation location to prevent silica aerogel dust from contaminating other areas in the facility. Naturally, this can be prohibitive to the installation process by increasing installation time, creating a challenging working environment for the installers, and increasing the overall cost of the installation.

It’s important to note that the environment where the material is installed will influence the amount of dust that is present in the air. For example, an outdoor location, varied ventilation, or a substantially larger or smaller indoor location, will likely cause the levels of particulate exposure to vary. Facilities are responsible for mitigating dust exposure and adhering to OSHA standards based on their own environments, regulations, and applications.

To better understand the volume of dust produced by our competing thin, hydrophobic blanket, InsulThin® HT (a microporous blanket), Johns Manville opted to run industrial hygiene sampling comparing the dust generation of InsulThin HT to two different silica aerogel products. The testing was run indoors, in a large, well-ventilated area for 4 hours and measured the time-weighted average of respirable particulates (particles that are approximately 5 microns or less and can penetrate the gaseous exchange region of the lungs) and total particulates (airborne particles, including the respirable fraction, released by the insulation) released by the insulations during installation.

In this test, results showed that InsulThin HT produced 65%-80% less respirable and total particulates than the two tested silica aerogel product samples that were tested.

Respirable Particulates

  • InsulThin HT: 0.6 mg/m3
  • Silica Aerogel Product A: 1.75 mg/m3
  • Silica Aerogel Product B: 3.06 mg/m3

Total Particulates

  • InsulThin HT: 3.6 mg/m3
  • Silica Aerogel Product A: 21.0 mg/m3
  • Silica Aerogel Product B: 13.0 mg/m3

(You can find a graph and a breif summary of the testing here.)

When considering the industrial hygiene of your jobsite, less dusty materials like InsulThin HT can be installed with standard PPE: gloves, glasses, long sleeves, and an optional dust mask (see SDS for additional details). This can be a substantial benefit for contractors and facility owners who can avoid additional PPE accommodations to prevent exposure to excess dust.