FYI: sand and lung disease - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-10-2008, 05:18 AM Thread Starter
 
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Exclamation FYI: sand and lung disease

I already posted this on another thread, but I want to be sure other people have a chance to be aware of it. My purpose is not to cause irrational fear but to inform people of a risk I am glad someone told me about. Better safe than sorry, IMO.

Be aware that inhaling the powder used in diatom filters, as well as possibly other types of sand, can cause a serious lung disease called silicosis:
http://www.silicosis-net.org/.

Some people argue that even course sand can produce fine enough particulates to cause a problem. This is because the sand is not uniform in size and dust is present. It has even been a point of contention with regard to children's sand boxes and is banned in California parks from my understanding:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...1/ai_n16510689

There's a product called "Safe Sand" which some parents are using instead.

If you are the kind of person who would want to take precautions regarding something like this, a high quality mask is the way to do it. Indiboi pointed out that a N-95 mask would be necessary for protection if one chose to wear a mask. Anything less than that would probably just be a waste of time. There are masks with even better filtering capacity, but I don't know if they would offer any additional advantage besides filtering gases, which has nothing to do with this. Those masks are much more expensive than N-95 masks. I have a N-95 mask anyway that I use when I vacuum b/c of my asthma. So I figure why not put it on when I use silica sand.

And no...you don't have to have your face right up in it to inhale it. We are talking about extremely fine particles. Think dust - it goes everywhere. Keep in mind that almost all sand you can buy is made from quartz and contains silicates. So, I'm not just talking about the powder used in diatom filters (diatomaceous earth). However, diatomaceous earth is obviously much more of a risk b/c of how fine grade it is. The risk is really about long term exposure from what I understand - not something that happens after using it a couple of times. And granted, people have been using this stuff for decades and been fine. Again, my philosophy is better safe than sorry when the precaution is cheap and simple.
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-10-2008, 05:59 AM
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What hasnt been banned in California these days.\\
Personally, I am not worried as I do not work with and breathe in these dust particles on any kind of prolonged and regular basis.

Paranoia, that is what I think it is.

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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-10-2008, 06:25 AM
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I worked with fumed silica for a summer and we were careful about how we handled it, but it wasn't of great concern to us. The MSDS (note, this is not the MSDS for the stuff I particularly worked with) for a few types just list that inhalation will lead to irritation, but nothing about leading to silicosis. I think that there has to be long term exposure to be at risk. Just like taking a tour of a coal mine won't give you black lung, I doubt that working with diatom filters every now and then poses much risk.

I think the best example of this is popcorn lung. Folks who make popcorn once a week have been exposed to diacetyl levels well below the PEL. It's folks who work in the factories, or make 2+ bags a day that are at risk.


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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-10-2008, 06:29 AM
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Just did some reading on silicosis. I think people should read more on the topic before making a judgement.

From what I have quickly read, it has been around for a long time. This disease is more of an occupational disease (people who work w/ extensively in places w/ fine silica dust). It is very uncommon in the United States (I am from Canada though), and has been declining in prevalence for many years. However, the disease is very debilatating and serious.

Working w/ dust for a little while--like us hobbyists--should be no cause for concern. Unless you are stirring up the silica sand so much silica dust particles start flying around, then you breathe that in, for extensive periods, I don't think it's a cause for concern. There are other things that kill more people that are preventable, things like obesity, drug-abuse, misuse of firearms, smoking tobacco, inactive lifestyles, drunk-driving, etc.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-10-2008, 09:21 AM
 
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loachlady5: Thanks for the heads up. You are right that it is something people should be aware of. I don't think theres any need to start wearing masks, but a few simple common sense precautions never hurt anyone.

Its intriguing though why we don't see more cases of this. My kids spend most of their weekends sitting in their sandpit playing with sand.

Because my father was a civil engineer I myself grew up on building sites, including several in Saudi Arabia and Dubai, yet ive never heard of a single case of silicosis.

I suspect that you would have to have prolonged exposure to very very fine particles to have any significant elevation in your risk profile.

As for California. That strikes me as a knee jerk reaction and very sad for the next generations of children. What will they get to play with instead? mud? road dirt?
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-11-2008, 03:19 AM
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Sand is the least of your worrys. The most dangerous thing in your tank is Dihydrogen Monoxide.

http://www.dhmo.org/
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-11-2008, 04:44 AM
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Haha good one. I learned about dihydrogen monoxide in grade 9 science class, extremely contagious.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-11-2008, 05:01 AM
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Whoa, you can suffocate in that stuff! Prolonged skin contact can cause prune fingers! And it makes you have to pee.
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-11-2008, 05:17 AM
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Thats water right?

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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-11-2008, 06:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fshfanatic View Post
Thats water right?
That's what they want you to think.
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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-11-2008, 07:18 PM
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Holy crap, I went straight to Rex's link before scrolling down and it took me a couple of pages to realize exactly what they were talking about. I had no idea it was such a problem.
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-11-2008, 07:26 PM
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Okay, stop sniffing that diatomaceous earth RIGHT NOW!!!


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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-11-2008, 10:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fshfanatic View Post
What hasnt been banned in California these days.\\
Personally, I am not worried as I do not work with and breathe in these dust particles on any kind of prolonged and regular basis.

Paranoia, that is what I think it is.

Couldn't agree more, now if you were in the sandblasting profession I would be concernd, but as far as handling it for your tanks, I wouldn't be at all.


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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-12-2008, 12:49 AM Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alang View Post
Holy crap, I went straight to Rex's link before scrolling down and it took me a couple of pages to realize exactly what they were talking about. I had no idea it was such a problem.
must admit...I looked a long time myself
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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-12-2008, 12:58 AM
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Personally, I went "Dihydrogen Monoxide.. Di... means 2, hydrogen... mon means 1 oxide = oxygen... ok, so that's H2O... Ohhhhhhh... Ohhh! I get it.." and then I spammed the link to everyone I know.
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